My dear friend Pam and I were taking a rare cross-country trip together for the first time in years. This trip, to a weekend reunion of Wellesley friends, was to be our girls-weekend-off escape from the pressures of work and life.
Just before we boarded Jet Blue, we each extracted our books for the road (hardcovers, mind you!). It turned out we'd selected the books--both mega bestsellers--with the particular goal of being a good "airplane read."
"These kind of books aren't even well written, but they're perfect for a plane ride," Pam observed."They're written like movies."
Two hours into the flight, I opened up my book and looked at it with fresh eyes. It did, indeed, read like a movie.
What are the elements that make a novel "like a movie"?
- They are written in a highly visual style, with an overall effect that functions almost like a camera's lens.
- They keep the reader flowing precisely in the moment from scene to scene, at the breaking surface of the action. They focus on what the character sees, hears, is feeling, at that exact moment.
- There are few digressions into back story or descriptions.
- There's a lot of "white space," which means the action and dialogue is flowing briskly, and the pacing is swift.
- The chapters are short--sometimes, only a page or two. Again, that helps the action and pacing drive forward.
I don't know why the phrase "like a movie" hit me with such force. All of these elements--action, pacing, tension--are things we always strive to do as writers. But that the end goal was to write "like a movie"? That was a new thought for me.
Do you agree that most best-selling thrillers are written like movies? What are the elements you see that contribute to pulling it off?