Monday, May 7, 2012

Lessons Learned from the Movies Series: Part 1 by Fay Lamb

Hey everyone, Annette here. This month we're in for a treat as one of my co-workers at Pelican Book Group is here to share a series on what she learned from the movies. Let's start at the top with the Oscars, shall we? Enjoy this first installment!

Give Your Characters a Role 
that Screams “Oscar!”
by Fay Lamb

As with movie writing, it is important for authors to realize every character has a part to play. Every scene may have a different lead character—the one with the most to win or lose in that scene. Even in movies such as Forrest Gump, Forrest may be the movie’s lead character, but there are scenes when Jenny has the most to win or lose.

Just as a director will outline the scene, an author must do the same, looking through the wide-angle lens of his/her imagination to get the stage perfectly in frame and the action just right before s/he can bellow, “Cut!” Between the times the author slams the clip down on the scene board up until the announcement that the scene is over, a few techniques must be included in the directing:

1. The lead character must be clearly announced in the first paragraph, or at least by the end of the second paragraph. If more than one character is in the scene, the lead character gets top billing. If it’s Andrew’s scene, don’t mention Hannah first. Establish that Andrew is the lead or point-of-view character by placing him first in the action. Then channel all thoughts, sensory details, and emotions through Andrew.

2. Lead characters do not like mundane tasks in a scene. Make his part come alive with something interesting. Andrew and Hannah sitting on a couch talking about the day’s events won’t earn Andrew an Oscar. However, Andrew and Hannah sitting on a couch arguing about a jewel heist Andrew is planning, well, that will garner the reader’s attention. Andrew’s Oscar might be within reach. There is something Andrew wants and the reader thinks she knows what it is: jewels.

3. In order to cinch the Oscar, though, a leading character must be given the opportunity to portray his range of emotions. Andrew has the reader’s attention during the jewel heist discussion, but simply talking about a heist isn’t enough. We need to see Andrew’s emotional state, and his reasoning behind this planned heist. Robbery is a tricky business. An author can choose from a variety of emotions: exuberance, fear, guilt, self-righteousness, worry, etc. Two elements can bring out the Oscar-winning performance for Andrew: internal and external conflict. Emotions abound in conflict. Andrew is sure to put on a show if Hannah doesn’t want him to take the risk, but Andrew knows he must. They need the money for Hannah’s chemotherapy, and they’ve exhausted all other avenues. He’s walked the straight and narrow for her, and look where his retirement from a life of crime has placed him—into a position where he cannot help the woman he loves.

4. Oscar-winning performances also come with a “wow” factor. Those factors don’t just come at the end of the movie when collective breaths are released. They occur throughout the story where little by little, the audience is pulled forward in their seats, knees on elbows, chins resting on hands, waiting for the shoe to drop. So it is with a novel. Each leading character must be allowed to put on a performance that takes his reader into the next chapter where he or another character may shine. Andrew has made up his mind. He’s going back into his life as a master thief, if only to save Hannah’s life. There’s nothing else he can do. Then Hannah drops another conflict on him. “I’d rather die than see you go back to that life. Either we find another way, or I walk out and you’ll never see me again until my funeral.” At this pronouncement, Hannah leaves the scene, and Andrew falls to his knees, raising an angry voice to God. “Why? Why did you lead me out of that life only to let me watch her die because I can’t give her what I used to be able to provide?”

Hannah could win a supporting actress in this scene, put Andrew is the lead because he has the most to win or lose. He could lose his freedom, maybe even his life, by returning to his old ways, but whether or not he goes through with his plan, he’s going to lose Hannah. The question for Andrew is, does he do the heist and save her life or does he sit back and lose her—permanently.

Establishing point of view at the beginning of a scene and carrying it through and allowing a character to put on the performance of his life with each new challenge is part of the building of a truly great story. Once those elements are included, the author can sit back in his or her chair and call out, “That’s a take!”


Fay Lamb works as an acquisition/copyeditor for Pelican Book Group (White Rose Publishing and Harbourlight Books), offers her services as a freelance editor, and is an author of Christian romance and romantic suspense. Her emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Because of Me, her debut romantic suspense novel is soon to be released by Treble Heart Books/Mountainview Publishing. Fay has a passion for working with and encouraging fellow writers. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), she co-moderates the large Scribes’ Critique Group and manages the smaller Scribes’ critique groups. For her efforts, she was the recipient of the ACFW Members Service Award in 2010. In 2012, Fay was also elected to serve as secretary on ACFW’s Operating Board. Fay and her husband, Marc, reside in Titusville, Florida, where multi-generations of their families have lived. The legacy continues with their two married sons and five grandchildren.


Not your typical Christian fiction.

Michael’s fiancĂ©e, Issie Putnam, was brutally attacked and Michael was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Now he’s home to set things right.

Two people stand in his way: Issie’s son, Cole, and a madman.

Can Michael learn to love the child Issie holds so close to her heart and protect him from the man who took everything from Michael so long ago?

Because of Me is available through all fine book retailers, Amazon, and Mountainview Publishing, a division of Treble Heart Books.

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