Saturday, 20 August 2011

Write like a Film Director

Write like a Film Director?
Tension & Conflict

One of the things I found hard to get to grips with when I first started writing thrillers was the idea of tension or conflict on almost every page. ‘What, every page,’ I asked myself? Surely not…
But then I realised that the kind of reader I was aiming for wanted and expected a thriller to be a fast-paced page turning epic that took them on a roller coaster of a ride until they came to the satisfying ending. Okay, perhaps not always that fast, but it is definitely a different kind of read from a literary, Jane Austen - type story.
Nowadays readers are used to watching movies and TV that fast cut to the action and leave little inbetween. When I am writing I visualise every scene as if I am watching a film and I cut in and out as if I’m a film director.
I am not saying that all types of fiction should be like that – far from it - but if you are going to go with a genre you’d better give it due thought. To veer away from it is bound to disappoint readers who expect a certain kind of read with a certain kind of genre.
Seeing my story as a film may not always work out well but it gives me a way forward, at least. I try to infuse each scene with some degree of tension even if it's only a character’s inner thoughts - which may be in turmoil. There are, of course, other things that can add to tension such as setting, weather and bigger picture happenings (e.g. war, plague or world events) and it all adds to the overall effect.
Scene and chapter endings are also places where tension should be enough to ensure a reader continues to read - in other words, the cliff hanger ending. Not always easy, but one way is to leave a scene early in the middle of conflict (and sometimes switching to another point in the story) so that the reader must continue to read to find what happens. Page turners, indeed!

All ifs, buts and maybe’s you say… But that’s how I do it…
So what about you? Do you cope well with tension and conflict in your writing?


  1. I write in scenes. It's very important to imagine each section of your book like it would appear to the reader. Would they switch channels? Great post.

  2. Agreed! COnflict + tension = Drama! The more I read, I realize I'm more engaged in books and scenes that bring the conflict in FAST and CLOSE. It's an effective technique!

  3. The film director approach might be good for other genres too. Not all films are fast paced and thrill a minute, but there always needs to be something happening - the same is true of writing, I think.

  4. Hi Pat, I agree with Patsy. I visualize my stories quite often and I love doing it. Thanks so much for the valuable adivice and thanks for dropping by at novel moments. see you soon.

  5. Thanks everyone for the comments! It seems most of us do write like film directors!

  6. I must admit, when I wrote The Trojan Project, I played the whole thing out in my mind like a film.
    I have had to sign this as anonymous, as the site is doing weird and wonderful things again!

  7. I think I have sorted it now, Pat. Anyway the Anonymous is little ol' me!