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Writing Exercise from Cliff

Here’s a writing exercise by one of my friend’s Cliff Cardin that will help you YA writers develop your ability to set scenes and add descriptions to your work.

The intriguing thing about film is the ease in which it can take you to a back-alley crime scene and completely immerse you in the surroundings. Everything is there. No background information is necessary. You don’t have to guess what color the victim’s purse is, or what the detective is wearing; you can see it. The expression on the actor’s face is readily apparent, no need to say, “she cast a sly grin.”

As a writer, our work is not so easy. We have to set the scene for our readers if we want to successfully convey our original intention.

When I write, I am often short on detail. I consistently have to re-edit material. I assume this is because I began by writing screenplays. My motto was, forget the detail, that’s what actors and set designers are for.

When I switched to novels, I realized I had to do something to beef up the descriptive process, so I started looking for helpful hints. I recently attempted a writing exercise that worked well for me—so well; I thought I would share it with you.

To begin the exercise, take a scene from one of your favorite television shows. I chose Castle. Record the scene on your DVR, and then watch it. After you watch it a couple of times go back to your desk and write out the scene. Jot down everything you can remember, including dialogue. I selected a scene from a recent episode set inside a precinct office. That meant I had to describe, what the characters were wearing, what office furniture was in the room, the expressions worn by the characters, and, of course, what was said.

After writing the scene, I went back and re-watched the recording. I specifically looked for things I may have missed. Was the room dimly lit? Did it cause the characters any problems? If so, what were they? I then went back and edited the original copy, adding components I believed were important.

At some point your experience will reverse. You’ll read what you have on paper and then watch the completed scene only to find it was shot as written.

Your now ready for the final test. Have someone read your writing, and then show them the segment. Ask if what they were watching was the way they visualized it when they read your text. If it was, you have mastered your craft.

Of course, the amount of detail you enter into your book will vary depending upon your pacing, but being able to describe what you visualize is a skill worth cultivating.

Just a Thought,