Guest post by Robert Ferrigno
My life experiences prior to writing shaped my writing style and method, although I doubt anyone outside my cerebral cortex could have predicted it. Having earned degrees in Philosophy, Film-Making and Creative Writing, I intended to be a college professor, but things didn't work out. I call this "my close call."
While studying film-making, I learned to visualize the story, to see it vividly spool out in my mind before I spent the money on filmstock. Today, video is virtually free, so I might not have learned this technique if I was in school today, which would be too bad, because I use it every day, in writing all my books, including my latest novel, The Girl Who Cried Wolf.
It Is All In the Matter of How You Edit a Book
As an author, I love to see a story unravel before my eyes, played out in a way that the reader will enjoy—moving them freely from one page to the next. I can actually do a lot of the editing in my head, playing out a scene from one point of view and then trying it again from another character's perspective. It saves time keyboarding if I can do a lot of the heavy lifting lying in bed seeing the book move forward and backward.
Once I have the basic plot, I physically storyboard my novels. I have a huge corkboard on my wall with every chapter eventually blocked out on a 3x5 card. This allows me to create a visual of the scenes and passages that follow one another to better determine how they work best. Over the course of writing a book, I’ll be moving chapters around because I see a different play of events. For example: Do you want to have an action scene followed by a love scene? What chapter works best when the main character is in a cliffhanger the chapter before? How long before the antagonist and protagonist meet?
Mastering fiction. This is the job, the calling, the rollercoaster ride. It's hard, and no one ever really masters the form, which is one of the things that makes it so compelling to read and write. One of the best ways to bring a book to life is through characters that are more than marionettes, but real, in some ways more real than people we encounter in the rest of our lives.
Filmmaking plays into how I write my books in a way that many novelists would not typically think of—I see myself and my books very visually. I hear dialogue in my head and rehearse the dialogue in my head as if I were an actor. I am often walking around the house talking to myself in different voices and wearing different outfits.
The backstory of a great novel is always the imagination and thought that went into developing a story that has the ability to grab the attention of your audience. With the ability to bring my characters to life, I can see what they look like and how they are perceived in my head, but it is up to whoever has my book in their hands to do the same.
Writers Should Be Hyper-Aware of Their Surroundings
One thing that I have learned throughout the course of my life as an author is that the world is trying to help you. If you are out in the world, even in the most mundane of settings, you will encounter others. There are always power dynamics when people get together. Be aware of how they are dressed and how they talk, who touches whom, who makes eye contact and who doesn't. Each choice people make gives you an insight into their personalities. Check the shoes they are wearing, that’s what good detectives do, because shoes are an insight into character. I always want to know what my characters have for breakfast, even if they never have breakfast in the book, because that gives me insight into whom they are: oatmeal? Scrambled eggs? Black coffee? It matters. In The Girl Who Cried Wolf, the main character has breakfast with a cop who is helping him find his kidnapped girlfriend. The things the characters order, the way they eat, the way they handle their utensils, the banter over the food, who cleans their plate and who pushes it aside, all reveals who they are to the reader, and makes the scene more real. Which is the whole point.
Fiction vs. Reality
Visualizing a story allows it to come to life before your eyes—be it in your mind or in your living room as you are dressed as a character. It is my belief that the relationship between fiction and reality involves not only the author but the reader who will transform the author’s words and thoughts through their own personal experiences. It is the audience that truly makes the character live.
Robert Ferrigno is the author of The Girl Who Cried Wolf, Heart of the Assassin, The Wake Up, Flinch, and other thrillers. You can find out more about him at his website and purchase his books, including his latest release, here.