Where’s the Camera?

First-time novelists often have difficulty knowing when to use a scene and when to use narrative summary. If you act out an inconsequential bit of small talk but summarize important events, the reader feels cheated. One way to choose scene or narrative is to think about where the camera should be.
Writing Tip for Today: Do you know the difference between scene and narrative? In scenes, the camera zooms in for an intimate experience. When the camera feels very close, it signals to the reader: remember this. In a scene, where we experience concrete sensory detail, the camera is very close. In places where you want to provide a transition, summarize less important bits or to account for the passage of time, allow the camera to zoom out for a more global view. Especially during revisions, ask yourself where the camera should be for each major plot development (turning point or plot point) and adjust accordingly. It’s all about show, don’t tell.
Try This! Look for a narrative summary in your current project. Sometimes critiques label these places “telly.” Now rewrite the telly bit as a real time scene. Where is the camera and how does the revision affect the story?

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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