In my post last month, I explained how early filmmakers devised effective storytelling techniques that can help us tell our stories, too. For example, an early movie by Thomas Edison was likely to use one fixed camera and one scene to tell an entire story—much like a stage play in one act. Here's how a story might unfold using the primitive single-camera method:
Caleb had had enough of Ernestine's indecision, so he growled that he would have to make the old woman's choice for her. He stormed out of her kitchen and she heard his car rip through the gravel of her driveway as he roared toward town. She wondered aloud why her son wouldn’t let her pray about this. Why did he expect her to leave the only home she'd ever known to live in a rest home somewhere, among ailing strangers? Tears trickled down Ernestine’s cheek.
Even if we strengthen this tableau with dialogue and description, the story will be rather superficial, either in print or on film. So let's try telling the story in a sequence of scenes. Flesh out the plan of each scene with a scene-building worksheet (Click Here).
[Scene 1: Ernestine’s kitchen]
[Cut to Scene 2: Inside Caleb’s car.]
[Cut to Scene 3: Office of Ernestine’s doctor.]
[Cut to Scene 4: Office of hospital social worker.]
[Cut to Scene 5: Back in Ernestine’s kitchen, late in the day.]
These scenes tell the story in chronological fashion. They also reveal a good deal about each character's persona through self-talk and rehearsal, which they would conceal in the presence of others.
This is the dual purpose of well-executed cinematic scenes: They keep a story moving, while allowing us to see what each character learns through dealing with life's challenges. Scenes make cinematic stories dynamic and true-to-life. They can do the same in our short stories and novels.
Joe Allison writes both fiction and nonfiction, and has been a member of the Indiana chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. He lives in Anderson, IN, with his wife Maribeth and daughter Heather.