Set the Scene: Panorama

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30Days-THINK
Here’s another creative writing prompt for your 750 words, a challenge to write 750 words each day to better Think Like a Writer. Read more here.

Port Townsend. Photo by Dwight Pattison, c. 2008. Please do not copy. Click to see a larger version.

Here’s another creative writing prompt for your 750 words, a challenge to write 750 words each day in January to better Think Like a Writer. The next three days of Thinking Like a Writer are all connected and I’ll explain it here, then just remind you of the prompts for the next two days.

When you describe a scene of a novel or story, it is important to think about the focal length. Taking a cue from filming, you can think of a couple ways of describing a scene: zoom, pan, scan.

A panorama is the wide-angle view. Think of a football game and you’re sitting on the top of the bleachers with the view of the field and parking lot laid out in front of you. You see the pageantry of the blue and red teams, the yellow school buses, the bustling food stand. It’s an overview, a view from a distance, from overhead.

A zoom, however, focuses in on tiny details. The pencil stub the coach is using to put check marks by player’s names on his clip board, the taped thumb of the quarterback, the aching toe of the head cheerleader. Usually, you’ll need to include sharp sensory details: what the character sees, hears, touches, tastes and feels (not emotions, but temperature and texture). Avoid the cliched details and include interesting and different, but telling details.

A scan is a way to show a crowd scene economically, yet in an interesting way. It involves a series of small zooms: the quarterback’s mother is taping the game with a new video camera that she borrowed money to buy; the coach’s pencil is hovering over two names, trying to decide if he’ll start the injured quarterback or his backup; the head cheerleader is trying to shake off a headache and wondering if that red pill the quarterback gave her would help or not. In a short paragraph, you get the complexities of the crowd!

For the next three days, we’ll focus on one of these ideas. Today, try writing a scene using a Panorama. Tomorrow, write a scene using a Zoom. And on the next day, write a Scan.

While you’re busy Thinking Like a Writer, when would you use each of these techniques? Leave me a suggestion!


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Start Your Novel by Darcy Pattison
You want to write a novel, but you don’t know where to start. You have a great idea and–well, that’s all. This book explains the writing process of starting a novel in six winning steps.

Starting the Journey
Why Editors Focus on Page 1
STEP ONE: Clarify Your Idea
STEP TWO: Review Your Skills
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