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Guest Post: 6 Cinematic Techniques You Can Apply to Your Novel Right Now by C.S. Lakin


A hearty thank you to C.S. Lakin for this article. Lakin is a prolific author and the brains behind Live Write Thrive.

Many of us were raised watching thousands of movies and television shows. The style, technique, and methods used in film and TV are so familiar to us, we process them comfortably. To some degree, we now expect these elements to appear in the novels we read—if not consciously, then subconsciously.

We know what makes a riveting scene in a movie, and what makes a boring one—at least viscerally. And though our tastes differ, certainly, for the most part we agree when a scene “works” or doesn’t. It either accomplishes what the writer or director has set out to do, or it flops.

As writers, we can learn from this visual storytelling; what makes a great movie can also strengthen a novel or short story. Much of the technique filmmakers use can be adapted to fiction writing.

Break Scenes into Segments

Just as your novel comprises a string of scenes that flow together to tell your story, so do movies and television shows.

However, as a novelist, you lay out your scenes much differently from the way a screenwriter or director does. Whereas you might see each of your scenes as integrated, encapsulated moments of time, a movie director sees each scene as a compilation of a number of segments or pieces—a collection of camera shots that are subsequently edited and fit together to create that seamless “moment of time.” By thinking in terms of segments in creating each scene, writers can create a dynamic, visually powerful story.

So how can novelists structure scenes with cinematic technique in a way that will supercharge their writing? Here are six steps that will help you structure your novel as if you were a filmmaker:

  1. Identify key moments

Think through your scene and try to break it up into a number of key moments. First, you have the opening shot that establishes the scene and setting. Then, identify some key moments in which something important happens, like a complication or twist, then jot those down.

Then write down the key moment in the scene—that “high moment” I always harp on—that reveals something important about the plot or characters. That should come right at or very near the end. You may have an additional moment following that is the reaction or repercussion of the high moment.

  1. Consider your POV

Now you have a list of “camera shots.” Think of each segment on your list, then imagine where your “camera” needs to be to film this segment.

Remember, you are in a character’s POV—either a first-person narrator telling and experiencing the story or a third-person character in that role. So consider where that character is physically as he sees and reacts to the key moments happening in your scene.

You now have your “direction” so that you can write this scene dynamically. Come in close to see important details. Pull back to show a wider perspective and a greater consequence to an event.

  1. Add background noise

Consider what sounds are important in this scene. They could be ordinary sounds that give ambiance for the setting, but also think of some sound or two that you can insert into the scene that will stand out and deepen the meaning for your character.

Church bells ringing could remind a character of her wedding day as she heads to the courthouse to file divorce papers. Birds chirping happily in a tree next to a grieving character can sound like mocking and deepen the grief.

  1. Color your scenes

Colors can be used for powerful effect. Different colors have strong psychological meaning, and filmmakers often use color very deliberately. Red implies power; pink, weakness. You can “tinge” your scenes with color and increase the visual power. Color can also add symbolism to an object or be a motif.

Want to learn more? A great book to read is Patti Bellantoni’s If It’s Purple, Someone’s Gonna Die.

  1. Think about camera angles

The angle of a “shot” also has powerful psychological effect. A camera looking up at a character implies he is important or arrogant or powerful or superior. A camera looking down implies someone who is weak or inferior or oppressed or unimportant.

If your character is in a scene with others and feels superior, you might have him elevated or being seen from below to emphasize this. A woman being fired might be sitting in a chair with the boss standing over her. These little touches add visual power.

  1. Include texture and detail

Consider adding texture. Too often, novelists put their characters in boring settings, without saying where they are, what time of year it is, or what the weather is like. We exist in a physical world, and movies showcase setting and scenery in great detail.

Add texture to your scene by infusing it with weather and sensual details of the surrounding area. The feeling of the air in late fall in the middle of the night in Vermont as two characters walk through a park is texture the reader will “feel” if you bring it to life in your scene.

Novelists who think like filmmakers can create stunningly visual stories that will linger long after the last page is read. Spend some time using a filmmaker’s eye to take your scenes to the next level, giving them dynamic imagery and sensory details as well as deliberately placing characters, colors and sounds in your scenes for targeted psychological effect.

If we want to move readers emotionally by our stories, the best way is to bring our novel to life by using cinematic techniques.

Which of these 6 cinematic elements do you like best? Which one could you grab right now and use in the scene you’re presently writing? Share about it in the comments!

Shoot your novel ebook cover finalFor a deep look at how novelists can use cinematic technique, get Shoot Your Novel. No other writing craft book teaches writers how to segment their scenes the way filmmakers do, using camera shots and cinematic devices to create powerful scenes and evoke emotion.

The most effective way to write scenes is to show, not tell, and this highly acclaimed book will give you unique tools to load your writer’s toolbox with.

With Shoot Your Novel, Susanne Lakin does something wonderful and unique. While lots of us in the business of helping writers and storytellers recommend adding vivid images to scenes, Lakin goes much further to reveal how employing the tools and techniques of movie directing, editing and cinematography will give your fiction deeper meaning and greater emotional impact. Her book is an essential tool for any serious novelist.—Michael Hauge, Hollywood screenwriting coach, author of Writing Screenplays That Sell

Wordless Wednesday: Come and Sit Awhile




Diamond Ring and Christmas by Betty Mason Arthurs


Thanks to Betty Mason Arthurs for this story of love and loss and Christmas joy.

Doing Life Together

Ornament Wreath

Diamond Ring and Christmas


Betty Mason Arthurs

Christmas time brings both happy and painful memories. Today, I share one of a father’s love and his gift.

A father kept a memorable gift tucked away in the top drawer of his dresser. Among his extra keys, spare change, combs and handkerchiefs nestled, like delicate eggs in a nest, a small blue velvet box. David often touched the box and then opened it to gaze at the beautiful diamond ring, a gift for his lovely daughter.

His daughter was the sunshine in his life. It’s not often parents give birth to a selfless child who loved them “to the moon and back” even after she married. Marcy gave them a delicate granddaughter and handsome grandson. She and her family lived close by and every visit overflowed with her love and concern for her parents.

Marcy would turn 30 years in May…

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7 Things Creatives Should Do Before 9:00 AM

7 Things Creatives Should Do Before 9:00 AM

Full disclosure: The suggestions listed below may only work for full-time writers and artists or the unemployed. If you have a day job, you might find this article frustrating. Or, you could try utilizing the information below on your days off, or implementing only the tips that fit your situation or schedule.


  1. Get up. Yeah, I know, it sounds obvious; but if you’re not doing getting up before 9:00, maybe you should try it. Going to bed before midnight helps.
  2. Drink a glass of water. Your brain won’t work well if it’s under-hydrated.
  3. Reading biblePray, meditate, or read something inspiring. For me, it’s a chapter of scripture. I read, pick out a passage that speaks to me at that particular moment, and rephrase it in my own words in my journal. Then I pray and ask God what He has for me that day, and ask Him to guide me.
  4. Go to the gym. If you don’t belong to a gym, hop on your bike, work through an exercise video, jog, climb stairs, practice yoga, lift dumbbells, or take a walk. If you’re not doing something that requires total concentration, let your mind wander. Observe what’s going on around you. People-watch. Listen to birds sing. Free your brain to collect inspiration.
  5. Clear your mind with freewriting. Even three minutes of dumping your worries or just writing down whatever silly thoughts enter your consciousness will help your creativity emerge.writing
  6. Plan what you want to accomplish this day. Be reasonable. Writer Anne Lamott, in her book Bird by Bird, recommends giving yourself a small assignment, something that would fill a one-inch square picture frame, something that moves you forward without overwhelming you. Consider all the things you are obligated to do, and figure out a way to accomplish your daily chores while still giving you time to work on your art.
  7. Eat a healthy breakfast, preferably containing protein. I generally have a cup of coffee and some yogurt while I read my Bible (see #3). Hint—a donut or four cups of coffee do not constitute a healthy breakfast. Fuel yourself for productivity.

Oil_painting_palette wikipedia

Once you’ve done these seven things, you’ve already overcome some of the worst barriers to creativity: inertia, apathy, hunger, thirst, and lack of motivation. Now get out there and make something beautiful and amazing!


Artists & Writers in Their Studios


A great big ARHtistic License thank you to Deborah J. Brasket for this fabulous article. I love to see artists’ and authors’ workspaces. Don’t you? Too bad mine looks like #7. See more of Deborah’s thoughts on art and writing on her blog, Living on the Edge of Wild.

Deborah J. Brasket

"Calder at Home The Joyous Environment of Alexander Calder" by Pedro Guerreo Art studio of Alexander Calder

I’ve been collecting images of artist studios and writing spaces as inspiration for creating my own art/writing workspace. Some of these images are of famous artists and writers. It’s been so interesting to match the creative mind with the space that inspires it. Most of the creative spaces that have been most inspiring to me belong to people who are not famous, or at least unknown to me, and perhaps I’ll share those another time.

Here I’ve matched the spaces with famous quotes from the inhabitants. See if you can guess who they are. If you can’t, the names are listed below.

  1. “With age art and life grow together.” 

"With age art and life grow together."  ---George Braque

2. “I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion it produces upon me.”

Matisse, paper cutting. We both love Matisse, especially the cut paper works of his latter days. I actually made two quilts based on those artworks.

3. “My library is an archive of longings.”

40 Inspiring Workspaces Of The Famously Creative

4. “My fan mail is enormous. Everyone is under six.”

Alexander Calder in his studio. I want those rugs!

5. “All sorrows…

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In the Meme Time: Crazy

In the Meme Time: Crazy

CRAZY Steve-Jobs-Quotes-5-800x800

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: In the Distance

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: In the Distance

My offerings for CB&W, taken on a recent trip to the Gilbert Riparian Reserve. The white birds are snowy egrets; the dark one is a great blue heron; all taken from a distance.

Inktober Day 16: Facets

Inktober Day 16: Facets

I’m using the prompt from the Zentangle All Around Facebook group, facets:



Creative Juice #63

Creative Juice #63

Sharing twelve artsy articles to juice up your creativity:

  1. Street art.
  2. A sculptor turns a fallen tree into a sculpture.
  3. Super Converse kicks!
  4. The truth about corsets.
  5. What happens when Helen Keller goes to a dance studio? No, I’m not making a tasteless joke. Martha Graham was a friend of Keller’s.
  6. This one might make you cry. It’s about the death of a mother. Skip it if you must.
  7. Amazing award-winning quilts.
  8. If you have the ability to snap a picture of your pet doing something silly, you may want to enter this contest next year. If not, you can still enjoy this year’s finalists.
  9. Pages from a Zentangle sketchbook.
  10. Shipping containers never looked so good.
  11. How a unicorn makes music. (Because I’m dedicated to bringing you all the unicorn stories I can.)
  12. Quirky ceramics and a podcast.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Flowers

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Flowers

Cee is doing an “alphabet with a twist” series for her Fun Foto Challenge, and we’re up to F: Fun or Flowers. Here are my offerings, from a recent walk through the ‘hood.

Ocotillo blossoms:




Red bird of paradise: