mind movie image

Making Mind Movies

I’ve started writing another novel. Along with short bouts of actual writing, I’ve been reading all kinds of stuff and peering at images and maps on my computer screen.  I’ve been dumping the facts, ideas and impressions harvested from books and other sources into the brain mixer and sketching out scenes.

This time I’m paying attention to the process of novel-writing, as well as the substance. Scenes are the key elements of a novel. A novel is a series of scenes, in which characters and situations are introduced and developed, leading to a climactic scene or scenes in which the situations are resolved and the characters transformed in some way.

Writing goes best for me when I envision compelling scenes — just like a good reading experience, curiously enough. I need to see the elements of my story like a movie in my mind before I can render them into words that will invoke a movie in the minds of my readers.

That’s it! That’s all there is to it!

It sounds easy. But just try it! Especially when the scenes don’t arrive ready-made from some magical studio of the imagination.

Deliberate, sustained imagining is hard. It strains the brain. Like physical exercise, it’s too easy to quit before much progress is made. There are so many elements to be created and/or assembled — the over-arching theme of the novel, the characters with all their quirks, characteristics and emotions, their actions, their thoughts, the setting, and possibly external facts and realities that must be accurate. The writer has to juggle all this stuff in the brain, and then select words to convey it — the right words, and enough of them to do the job, but not too many.

That’s to create one scene — a few thousand words at most, possibly less. Many more scenes will be sweated out to trace the entire story arc. And all those scenes will have to be put into order and glued together with suitably sticky words to make a complete first draft.

No wonder writers procrastinate and agonize, writing blog posts and looking at free images on the internet instead of buckling down and making mind movies from fleeting ideas they got in the shower.


Image courtesy of Pixabay.


  1. Even non-fiction is hard – just as you describe – and the web has every appeal as a distraction… (sigh)… I have a non-fiction book I am contracted to write, and I have it clear in my mind, but the time to translate that to the page (a slow process) isn’t available.

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    1. It’s almost worse (in a way) when you do have the time but can’t make yourself get on with it. When I was working at the full-time job, I used to scribble down scene ideas in moments snatched from work, and could hardly wait to get home and write them out. Now that I have more time for writing, I have less raw desire actually to do it. One of those weird paradoxes of human nature.

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  2. I was an editor for years before I had the desire to write something myself and discovered just how hard it was. As an editor, I always imagined it was comparatively easy if you were any good at it. Just goes to show how wrong you can be…

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    1. Assembling words is relatively easy, once you get a clear focus on what you want them to do. The more I think about the process, the harder it seems — sort of like tightrope walking (not that I’ve ever done that!)

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  3. Great post, Audrey. You really nail down the nitty gritty of the process, how the writer has to be able to see the scene before he/she can make the reader see it. And then do that hundreds of times in the course of a book.

    Sometimes I think brain surgery would have been an easier profession!

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    1. Well, I dunno… I think I’ll stick to writing. I can see writing about brain surgery, maybe — except I’d have to do a bunch of research first! Thanks for the comment, Kevin.


  4. It’s one of the processes I like most, imagining the scenes play out. What I do find difficult is when I start to write out the scene they end up being over-visual in the language used. Instead of getting into the character’s mind I end up being an observer describing how they look, how they behave, where they are, not what they’re felling, how they react and so on.

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    1. Most of my serious stuff is first-person pov, so that keeps me focussed. It’s that initial jump from ideas about what should happen in a scene to actual sentences that seems so hard. The hazier the ideas, the harder.

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