I like to invent crazy methods for writing, and the film director method of writing descriptions is one of them. I’m assuming no one has claimed this method before, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had. Anyway, it’s easy to apply a method for crafting, especially if it works. Methods are an easy way to remember how to do something and do it well.
So, what is the film director method of writing scenes, settings and overall descriptions? And how can it help you write great descriptions?
What is the Film Director Method?
First, it is exactly how it sounds. We all dreamt of seeing our book played out on a movie screen, and this method involves doing exactly that.
According to Wikipedia, a film director is the person who “visualizes” the script while guiding the technical crew and actors in the fulfillment of that vision. In this case the “actors” are your characters and the “crew” is your writing skills. So in other words, a film director sees the film played out in their heads or on storyboards, etc., before they align actors (characters) and crew (writing skill) in order to portray that visual onscreen. This is exactly what you should do when writing your story so readers can visualize your scenes in their minds. A lot of the time, writers tend to see the story played out in their heads but fail to portray that vision onto paper. We tend to forget that the reader needs a lot of information, given in the right way in order to stimulate their senses and make them feel like they’re a part of the story. I’m going to show you how the “author” becomes the “director” with this method.
How to implement the method (the right way to stimulate senses):
When writing descriptions of settings, scenery, or even character description:
- Remember which character’s point of view (POV) you’re writing in and use their own words to describe what they see. This way it would feel true to life and true to that character.
- Use descriptive wording or verbs that match the tone and mood of the story. For example, the metaphor, “the boulder dropped out of nowhere like an anvil from a Looney Tune’s episode,” may be considered too cartoonish for a post-disaster tale.
- Use all of your senses. Putting the reader in the story is not just about describing what the characters see but also what they hear, smell, feel, and taste. This way you create an experience for the reader and not just telling a story.
Use the 5 senses: Showing vs. Telling. The film director method
If you’re wondering the difference between showing or telling, imagine “showing” is similar to using a camera to show the moment onscreen like a director, and imagine “telling” as the actual script telling how the moment should be portrayed onscreen. Readers want to “see the film” not “read the script.”
Show = Camera. Tell = Script. With that in mind, here’s how to use the five senses to describe settings, scenes and characters in your story.
- What do you see? Not just a concrete floor or a small room. Show your readers by thinking like a film director. Imagine holding the camera yourself as you capture the scene. What color is the concrete floor? Does it look smooth or rough? What makes it look smooth or rough? The cracks and chips flaking off the surface? The way the character’s feet slide effortlessly across as she walks? Show what the camera is picking up. Is it zooming in on a particular spot of the floor? Where and why? The floor in the corner of the room stole your character’s attention because of the puddle of water that has collected there.
- What do you smell? Is the water leaking from sewer pipes that give off a foul stench? Is it stagnant water from the previous evening’s rain? Or by the smell of it, is it something else entirely, gasoline, urine, oil?
- What do you feel? Heat? Cold? Moisture? Static or tension in the atmosphere? A breeze? Motionless air?
- What do you hear? Trickles of water, paint chips from the walls as they fall to the concrete floor, an uneasy silence?
- What do you taste? Can you taste the bitterness in the air from the smoke coming from the burning pile of hay outside the barn?
Remember, everything that happens in the story including the things the characters sense must be important to the story. Even if the purpose is to show how dirty a place and its residence are, or poorly a place has been taken care of, or how maintained, etc. Everything in fiction happens for a reason and have to make sense in the overall scheme of things.
Using all the senses in description is how to get comments from readers about how they were immersed in the story and felt like they were in the book right alongside your characters. By simply envisioning yourself in the director chair and by writing down the words which describes exactly how you see your story unfolding on a big screen is how to get one step closer to providing that immersion experience for your readers.
Do you have a method you want to share? What do you think of my method?