Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Use language as the camera

 I’ve heard this before from many writers but I heard it most recently from Joyce Carol Oates and the way she expressed it—and also the fact that I think her writing is often very introspective and rich as one of those buttery voiced singers—made me start thinking about how creating a picture with words for the set design of a scene is actually really important: not just for descriptive particulars but also for choosing details of a character and of what happens in the scene. It can also help with showing more and telling less.


SO here’s what she said—paraphrase—

the writer should see the scene she is writing as if she’s off to the side and has a camera. But the camera is language. Use your camera to describe what’s happening.


For me doing this has made me think more and express more about how characters move and what the place they’re moving in looks like and feels like. It also has led to my finding what they’re thinking and feeling more accurately in that moment. Use it to ground your camera, but think of it as being made of language, and show the reader you scene.

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