What writers can learn from the movies

Both writers and film makers are in the business of telepathy. Writers transmit their thoughts through words, while images offers film makers the option of directly having the audience empathize with characters on the screen, leading people to say things like “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

Nevertheless, words are the foundation on which movies stand. Several movies are adaptations of famous novels or biographies. Every movie uses a written script. But most readers (I’m guilty here) look at movie adaptations with disdain. We lament that they cut out the best parts, dumb it down for wider audience or spoil a few characters forever by casting the wrong actors. We swear by the saying “don’t judge a book by its movie”.

But this judgment is often myopic. The best movie editors transmit emotions with the fewest possible words. How long a shot lingers on the close-up of a character plays a key role in determining what the audience feels. All of those principles – describing a scene, using the fewest possible words and rhythm are principles that every writer internalizes. Paragraphs are analogous to scenes. The length of sentences often mirror the length that shots in a movie have. The choice and the rhythm of words reflect the movement of the camera within every scene. Editing, the invisible art that pushes both movies and books towards excellence, have a lot in common. Besides, the visuals of a well made movie offer something more visceral and engaging by bypassing words. It’s fascinating how such a movie can convey the essence of a 10-hour book in 90 minutes.

While video continues to use the written word as a basis, there is unexplored ground on how inspiration can flow in the opposite direction. As a writers, we would do well to watch movies with a fresh pair of eyes, with more curiosity and a lot less disdain.

Inspiration: How does an editor think and feel? – The Every Frame a Painting YouTube channel



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