Shannon Stacey

Method again

In a chat tonight (last night? It’s 1:30 in the morning) the method of “movie in the head” came up.

Now, while it may not seem to jive all that well with my little XXs (yesterday’s entry), I see my books as movies in my head. The reason I write out of order is that the cranial DVR player skips around. But—usually when I’m supposed to be sleeping—I can envision a scene as clearly as if it were on the television. Whatever scene my brain wants to play is the one I write, hence the out of order thing. Sometimes, if I’m really hot on something else, I’ll put a particular action or line of dialogue down that conjures the scene for me. The two lines of dialogue in yesterday’s post—about being a pro and not thinking of England—each stood alone within the XXs until I finally wrote the scenes to go around them. Reading that line of dialogue for me as a writer summons the scene the same way “I drive a Volvo. A beige one.” does for a movie viewer.

The bitch of it is trying to get that scene down on paper the next day. That’s the actual work of writing for me—to put on that flat page the words needed to bring the Technicolor version to life. The hardest it ever was was during Twice Upon A Roadtrip. When you watch a comedy on the big screen, facial expressions, body language and hand gestures are huge! So when I’d “view” this hilarious scene that made bury my face in the pillow so my giggles didn’t wake the husband and then get up and try to write the scene, it always felt really flat to me. The best I think I’ve done it would probably be 72 Hours.

But the thing is, I thought everybody saw their current works as movies in their heads, but I guess not. I truly don’t understand how it’s possible to write without it—how do you know what to write?

For instance, I know the movie Die Hard probably as well as I know my own stories currently playing in my head. If you told me to sit down and write the book Die Hard, I’d close my eyes, imagine a scene, then try to capture it with the written word. That’s my process. (Maybe I should be writing novelizations…) But if I hadn’t seen Die Hard and I was given only a general idea of the plotline, how would I write that?

But it’s also my weakness—the closest I come to writer’s block. I can’t write until I’ve seen the movie. I can’t sit at the computer and write and delete until I think it’s okay. Until the elements have gelled enough to be a “movie”, it’s an exercise in futility. But once it comes together in the subconscious and I can close my eyes and visualize the scenes in order, then I can sit and work at doing the movie justice.

Do I sound as weird as I feel?

No, really.

Maybe I shouldn’t be blogging at 1:44 in the morning. But I’m about to start weaning myself off caffeine and the stress of thinking about it is keeping me awake.

3 comments to “Method again”

  1. Mel
      · June 30th, 2006 at 6:50 am · Link

    Hey Shan,
    I was there at the chat and had the same thought–how can you write it if you can’t see it?

    I however, don’t have to see the “end” to start writing. While I try to WRITE linear, that’s not usually how I see the movie. I generally have a basic idea of the “movie”–like one would going into a theatre, and I start writing as I see it. With Brand Name Dates I totally skipped around, just like your previous posts examples, and then played connect the dots. I have a reallllllly devastating feeling the book I’m working on now is going to require the same thing. *oy!*

    Oh, I know what it is… little trailers playing in my head. That’s it… I don’t get the whole blasted movie, just the highlights in blazing color–at least at first.

    I AM curious how one writes without the movie and manages to breathe life into the words.
    (And I’m answering your blog at 5:49am…. excuse my :blah:)

  2. Charli
      · June 30th, 2006 at 7:57 am · Link

    Huh. I sometimes “see” a key scene, and then write it down, not to transpose it from form A to form B but to find out who these people are and why they’re doing that. But I don’t see the whole thing as a movie. How do I know what to write? I just do!

  3. Natalie J. Damschroder
      · June 30th, 2006 at 5:44 pm · Link

    I don’t see it as a movie, either. To me, seeing the movie means I’m external. I’m watching things happen, and then trying to document them.

    For me, I’m totally in the head of the POV character. I’m part of the action, not watching it. So it’s a very similar process, just from a different camera angle. :)

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