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Lights, Camera, Fingers Poised for Action! by Beth Daniels, aka Beth Henderson, J.B. Dane, Nied Darnell

We live in a media-based world where parkour enhanced chase or CGI-configured fight scenes, and other seemingly magical things appear on screens in the theatre, on the tube, tablet, or phone. Our readers are video oriented. As writers, we need to be, too!

It isn’t enough that we’ve all had to learn marketing as well as story creation, now we need to think like a movie director. Picture the scenes, the shots, the angles that our pen/camera presents to our reading/mentally viewing audience.

 

I will admit that when I read – and it’s always been this way – a movie starts in my head.

I see the characters, the background, the action, I hear the dialog, the background sounds, and – because I am reading, not actually watching this – learn what the character is thinking, feeling, planning, regretting, why they are being wary or willing to jump off the proverbial cliff.

For some reason, I thought all readers experienced this. Totally shocked when people looked at me as though I had grown a second head because they didn’t experience stories this way.

Admittedly, the readers who gave me this look really didn’t qualify as “readers” because they didn’t pick a book up for fun. They only did so when reading was required. They lacked the film projector brain.

I’m guessing that all of us who pick up pens, sit down at keyboards, and spin stories DO have film projector brains though. Yeah, sometimes we need to really work at something. For me dialog just flows, and I’m always surprised (and tickled) at what my characters say to each other. But the background…well, that I’ve had to work at when it comes to turning it into words on a page. Oddly enough, I get compliments on the descriptions, but maybe that is because I really WORK to hone them into what they need to be.

 

As fiction writers we aren’t writing movie scripts though.

That’s an entirely different medium – as different from what we spin as novelists or short story writers as writing non-fiction is (and there are a lot of different ways to go with that as well!)

We think of the various story styles as genres then break those down further into more specific niches which often get broken down yet again into smaller niches.

 

Perhaps those cinema graphic images can be broken down into types and niches, too.

Consider the action adventure movie format for instance. Action and Adventure are two different elements. Action here equates to chase scenes, to shootouts, to Xtreme stunts, to martial arts, to…well, I don’t need to do all the thinking here, right? You can fill in some blanks of your own. The Adventure part is sometimes solving a crime, hunting for a treasure, outwitting the bad guys or dealing with when they out think the main characters. It’s even bringing together a cast that works well together even if they squabble at times.

When I head to the movies, it’s action and adventure I want. But I also want comedy, which means I’ve slotted my selection into a niche. I’m going to go further than that. I love CGI. I love things blowing up – not only plot-wise in the story as it unfolds but physically blowing up. It should come as no surprise that the movie I have watched over and over again this past year (and did so again when I had out-of-town company a couple weeks ago) is THOR: RAGNAROK.

Okay, yes, I do watch it to stare at Chris Hemsworth, too, but that’s just an added perk.

From the opening scene when Thor is bound in chains and is talking to the skeleton of a former prisoner in this cage, you know what you’re getting in this show. Because he’s talking to the skeleton, explaining who he is and briefly how he ended up in this predicament, we get a touch of background story within just a few words, we know he’s going to have to get out of this predicament, but we also know that he put himself in a position where he would end up in this predicament for a reason. All within what might equate to 500 words or less in a novel. I think this opening scene also sets us up for comedy.

 

But what I love most about this storyline is that the comedy bits are immediately followed by awesome action. Immediately!

The scenes can be brief and yet, because of the setup, take your breath away. Yeah, we all snickered when Thor threw a medicine ball against a window, supposedly thinking it would break the window and offer an escape, but when the ball rebounded back into him and knocked him down, we laughed. Even his bound back to his feet was humorous BUT THEN the comedy dropped away. He jumped through the window, breaking it with his body, and took our breath away with the recognizable hero stance, sliding down the side of the building into a parkourish leap to another building.

Hey, there’s a good reason that all the superheroes do those landings that are a kneeling stance with one hand to the ground. It’s probably hell on the body but it’s riveting, ‘cause when they look up, it’s all business.

 

Strangely enough, while it’s visible gold, how the heck are we supposed to duplicate that sort of thing on the written page?

Not easily, that’s how. But if we evolve the way we write to take the various viewable and audible media into consideration, we just might pull it off!

And with NANO 2018 closing in on us, that’s exactly what we’ll be endeavoring to do – not just for action adventure type tales but for romantic comedy and the various other genres and genre niches that we all write in. It’s the October prequel, if you will, to getting the ducks in a row to make writing your story – whether you do so for NANO or not – move ahead smoothly. Doesn’t matter whether you be Pantser or Plotter because this is all about starting the movie in your brain and having it so well pictured that the words are like paint to an artist.

We’ll take dialog, setting, movement, plot progression…heck, lots of things into consideration. You don’t even have to bring a mental running of your favorite movie (real movie or TV program) with you, though we will consider what they have to offer.

What’s important is that you’re ready to evolve, to think about some elements of story in a different way. To…as the workshop is called…consider what you’d do IF THIS WERE A MOVIE… October 1 through the 28th, so if you are doing NANO, you have a breather of a couple days at the conclusion.

I hope you’ll join me here in the Savvy virtual halls. Fun times await!

 

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Beth Daniels

Beth Daniels is one of those over educated scribblers – BA in History, MA in Composition with an Emphasis on Creative Writing – but she swears all she learned about writing fiction she did by actually writing fiction, submitting to publishers, and taking the suggestions of editors who sent rejection slips to heart. In the end she landed contracts at Berkley, Leisure, Harlequin/Silhouette, Simon and Schuster’s Aladdin Paperbacks imprint, Zebra, and a couple smaller publishers. It’s been 29 years since she got that first call from an editor, offering a contract, but the styles and types of stories have changed a lot over the years. You sink, you swim, you consider jumping genres. Which she is doing. Though not entirely abandoning romance, Beth’s reinvented herself as J.B. Dane to write urban fantasy mystery comedy. The first Raven Tales novel on a three-book contract releases the first half of 2019. Keep up with what she’s doing under her various pseudonyms by visiting www.RomanceAndMystery2.com, www.WritingSteampunk.com or for non-fiction about writing fiction www.Muse2Ms.com.

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The text was a death threat. There was no doubt about it in Fletch Layton’s mind. Dominique, his slinky, bombshell girlfriend for the past two years had given him one week to decide whether he was marrying her or not.

It was enough to make a man panic. And so, like the master procrastinator he was, Fletch decided to put off making any sort of leap. On

one hand there was gorgeous but flinty eyed Dominique. On the other was freedom.

Brenda Burton wasn’t in the least surprised when Fletch turned up at her parents for the weekly Sunday barbecue uninvited. He’d been theboy next door, her hero as a girl and she had the scars to prove it. That dare to jump her bike across Hobson’s Creek having left one on her brow. She was his pal, the shortstop on the company softball team, one of the guys. His best friend, although her older brother was his best bud. But when in need, Fletch never went to Josh for advice. He came to her.

But how could she possibly tell him that marrying Dominique was in the cards when she dreamed of being in those cards herself? Had ever since she’d fallen in love with him a dozen years ago when she’d been thirteen and he’d been sixteen. It was a hopeless dream.

Until her soon-to-be sister-in-law handed her a self-help book: LAND YOUR MAN. Bren still wasn’t convinced she should interfere – until Dominique ticked her off. REALLY ticked her off and Bren decided she needed to save her best friend from the bimbo by LANDING FLETCH LAYTON herself.

Buy this book!

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First published in the romance market in 1990 and went on to write 29 books under a variety of pseudonyms and subgenres (romantic comedy, historical [Old West] romantic adventure, YA romantic comedy). Beth Henderson wrote most of those, working with editors at M. Evans, Leisure, Harlequin Historicals, Silhouette Special Editions and Silhouette Your's Truly, a small e-book company (when e-books were really new) and gave Indie Publishing a try with a couple titles, though mostly for reprints. Reinventing myself for urban fantasy mystery comedy as J.B. Dane and The Raven Tales, the first book set for release from Burns and Lea Books the first half of 2019. Also do Weird West Steampunk and a Dieselpunk/urban fantasy 1920s comedy adventure as Nied Darnell. As Beth Daniels (real name) I occassionally turn former workshop into e-books -- and as I've been doing online workshops since before there was a Savvy Authors, that's a lot of workshops.

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