Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Writing a Book Like a Movie

A few weeks ago I wrote a review of Locked Within by Paul Anthony Shortt. This month he's doing a blog tour to talk about the book, and today I have him here to discuss his methods for writing a vivid, action-packed scene in clear detail.

Without further ado, here's Paul!

Writing a Book Like a Movie

Thank you for having me on your blog, Audrey! I’ve loved reading your blog all this time since I started out way back in 2010. Seems like a lifetime ago.

I’m an extremely visual person. Even when listening to music, I can’t help but picture a scene in my head, whether it’s from a movie that used the music, or a scene I’ve come up with for a story of my own. Early on in my efforts to become a published author, I used this tendency to help craft my book.

When I write, I imagine the scene in my head, like I’m watching a movie. I’ll spend weeks imagining and choreographing key scenes in my mind, listening to music to keep me in the mood. Then, when I get to that point in my writing, I know I have the scene already set.

This is perhaps one of the most useful tools I have, and it was invaluable when writing Locked Within. It’s actually a pretty simple process. Starting with a character, I pick an actor who could “play” the part, and keep that image firmly in mind while I write that character’s actions, thoughts and dialogue. I find it helps keep a unique and consistent personality throughout the story.

The same applies for setting scenes and describing locations. I use Google Maps and its Streetview feature as my “location scout” in this regard. Keeping photos of the location, or a suitable stand-in, helps me visualise the scene precisely and pass that detail on for the reader. Believe me, just having a few details set in stone for you, like the colour of a storefront sign or height of a wall, can add a whole new dimension to your writing. It may not make it to the final draft, but having that knowledge ready while you write, I feel, gives your description a depth and focus that the reader will, in some way, appreciate.

I love action scenes. They’re some of my favourite scenes to write. Having a firm concept of what happens in the scene and where all the pieces go as the scene progresses is essential. There’s nothing worse than your character taking the same action twice in the middle of a fight, or pulling out a weapon that they’d dropped on the previous page. In cases like these, an ability to properly picture the scene in your imagination is crucial. Again, think like the director of a movie. You’re shooting the scene. Make sure your actors are in the right positions and they have all the props they need.

The time you take to plan these scenes out may delay your actual writing, but believe me, it will pay off. If nothing else, knowing in advance where all your pieces are going to move will help keep your writing consistent.

Another advantage to writing like your book is a movie comes from pacing and plot structure. Movie audiences are impatient. They have two hours to take in an entire story. That leaves comparatively little time to set the scene and introduce characters. Today’s readers are quite similar. Gone are the days of 400-page novels with 100 pages of world building and character introduction before the action starts.

Agents and publishers know that most potential readers will flick through the first ten pages or so, either in the bookshop or the sample pages on the likes of Amazon. If those ten pages don’t grab the reader, they’ll put the book down and check out something else. Learn from the great movie makers. Make those ten pages count. Work hard. Make each word gold. Write an opening so engaging, so seductive, that the reader won’t want to wait until they’ve bought the book to keep going. If you can set your scene, your characters, and a hint at the story to come in those first few pages, you’ll hook your readers for sure.

About Locked Within:
The supernatural realm and the mundane world have existed side by side since the dawn of time. Predators walk the streets, hidden by our own ignorance. Once, the city of New York was protected, but that was another age.

Now a creature emerges from the city's past to kill again, with no one to hear the screams of its victims. The lost and the weak, crushed under the heels of the city's supernatural masters, have given up hope.

But one man finds himself drawn to these deaths. Plagued by dreams of past lives, his obsession may cost him friends, loved ones, even his life. To stop this monster, he must unlock the strength he once had. He must remember the warrior he was, to become the hero he was born to be.

His name is Nathan Shepherd, and he remembers.

About Paul:
A child at heart who turned to writing and roleplaying games when there simply weren't enough action figures to play out the stories he wanted, Paul Anthony Shortt has been writing all his life.

Growing up surrounded by music, film and theatre gave him a deep love of all forms of storytelling, each teaching him something new he could use. When not playing with the people in his head, he enjoys cooking and regular meet-ups with his gaming group.

He lives in Ireland with his wife Jen and their dogs, Pepper and Jasper. Their first child, Conor William Henry Shortt, was born on July 11th, 2011. He passed away three days later, but brought love and joy into their lives and those of their friends. Jen is pregnant again and is expecting twins.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Hi everyone! This past month I've had a lot going on, much of which I can't talk about right now, so I've been a bit silent online. But now it's Thanksgiving, and today I'm making one of my favorite contributions to Thanksgiving dinner: chocolate chip zucchini bread.

It's definitely not a typical holiday choice. I love pumpkin and apple pie. I'm a very very big fan of mashed potatoes too, though I'm not really a gravy or cranberry sauce person. Thanksgiving traditions are great, and I enjoy celebrating some things the way most everyone else does, but I like adding my own flavor to the mix as well.

So generally, if possible, I make a dessert bread. Chocolate chip zucchini bread is my absolute favorite. It doesn't dry out and it's very sweet. I got the recipe from a friend, and today I'm sharing it with a group of teenage girls, who will be coming over soon to bake with me. Let the mess and silliness begin!

Do any of you contribute an unusual dish to your Thanksgiving meal?