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All the world’s a stage – or, a chapter as screenplay approach

Writers are always looking for ways to streamline and tighten their writing, and their writing process. This week, acting on the suggestions of a couple of fellow authors, I tried something new – with interesting results.

Julia Phillips Smith is a fellow member of Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada and the  author of Saint Sanguinus, a riveting Dark Age vampire story – says I, who rarely read vampire stories. Julia has a film background, and we’ve had several discussions on the visual aspect of writing fiction. Ann Bartle Stuart is fellow Bluewood Publishing author with two fine contemporary romances, Awenasa Island and Brigadoon’s Guarded Hearts, currently available. We’ve chatted online about overcoming plotting difficulties by looking at each chapter as a separate story, with its own goals, motivations and conflict for each character.

As I began chapter 5 of Deliverance, I decided to see what would happen if I combined elements from those discussions.  I put together a rough chart with goals, motivation and conflict for Naomi and Carl, then on the back of the same piece of paper I sketched out three scenes in a modified screenplay form. I described the settings, noted the characters’ emotions, and put in a few snippets of dialogue as cues. The result was far fromcomplete enough to be acted, but I found writing the chapter much easier with this groundwork done.

I’m a pantser, but this is a level of planning I can handle. It made me think more precisely about what my characters want at this particular point in the story, why, and what they’re going to do about it. It’s easy to see the changes in goals and motivation – and if they aren’t changing, a red flag goes up.

I’ll be trying this again with my next chapter. If anyone in blogland tries it, I’d be curious to hear how it worked for you. Thanks again, Ann and Julia. Writing friends rock!

One Comment

  1. Michelle Helliwell
    March 12, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    Jennie – I have *just* figured this out in the past few months, and it has made such a difference in my approach to editing my manuscript (no doubt will to the writing process as well). It’s allowed me to really look at a scene and ask about what’s going on and what it is adding to my overall story. I’m a pantser too!