The figure turned, blue light from the monitors glaring off his metallic helmet. The man who had approached him trembled as the eyes he could not see bore into his thoughts. Swallowing, he shuffled his feet on the metal floor and began to sweat. He delivered his message hurriedly, the words falling out of his mouth one after the other like a chain tumbling from a platform.
“We have no confirmation,” he said, voice breaking. “But we believe FN-2187 may have helped in the escape—”
Ren’s saber extended in a explosion of red flame. The man flinched, bracing himself for the impact of searing plasma. He heard the saber’s shrill hum as it sliced and crackled through the air – but the saber did not hit him. Ren attacked the console in a frenzy. The slashes fell at random, sometimes slicing gracefully through, sometimes stopping abruptly on a denser piece of metal. When this happened, the leader of the Knights of Ren wielded his weapon like a club, hacking and beating the console to a burning mass of scrap. Bits of sparks and liquefied metal landed on the messenger’s clothing and sent up tiny tendrils of smoke. He wanted to escape, to flee the room screaming, to hop into and escape pod and run back to his parents on Coruscant—but the man was too afraid to move.
Ren’s movements slowed. He hacked at the console once more, sending an arc of sparks streaming across the room. He panted heavily for a few moments before sheathing his saber. He turned to face the man again.
“Anything else?” he asked calmly.
Mind racing, the man stammered: “The two were accompanied by a girl.”
The messenger flew toward Ren’s outstretched hand, shoes clattering against the floor, eyes wide with terror. He felt the impact of the glove, and cold fingers tightened around his throat.
“What girl?” Ren said. There was a coldness in the voice that the mask could not account for.
What is this Prompt?
In his book Image Grammar, Harry Noden compares writing to filming scenes in a movie. He says:
A well-described fiction or nonfiction work creates the mental equivalent of a film, leading readers through a visual journey of endless images with close-ups, action scenes, and angle shots. (4)”
In this metaphor, a comma “…controls a telescopic lens that zooms in on images. (6)” We wanted to play with this idea in my creative writing class as we focused on his first two “brushstrokes,” which are participles and absolutes. (If you’re not sure what those are, that’s okay: I will include a brief explanation later on in this post.) To do this, we looked up a clip from one of our favorite movies or TV shows and translated the action into prose. I figured if we need to think about writing as framing shots of a movie, why not practice by turning a clip from a movie into writing?
This is a pretty straightforward exercise that gives you an outline on which you can paint your prose. You can make it as spicy or as plain as you want, and in reality you could practice any skill you’ve been wanting to work on. I liked this activity because it lets you focus on the writing itself, whereas trying to practice skills and create a story at the same time splits your attention.
Even if you’re not practicing a certain skill though, it’s pretty fun to narrate a scene from your favorite shows.
Give it a shot!
Participles and Absolutes
Basically, a participle is an “-ing” word that is acting like an adjective (describing a noun). In the following example from my post, the verb swallow is being used to add to the image of the man.
Swallowing, he shuffled his feet…
Swallowing is a participle, a verb-turned-adjective that happens at the same time as the other action in the sentence. An absolute is a similar, but it’s a noun+participle combo that adds another image to the sentence rather than just describing the subject. In other words, the participle focuses the image, but the absolute zooms in on another part of the subject.
The messenger flew toward Ren’s outstretched hand, shoes clattering against the floor
“The messenger” is the subject of this shot. That’s who we’re focusing on here, but in this scene there’s actually a point where the camera does a close-up on his shoes (I could not find a clip that showed this whole scene for some reason, but go watch it, it’s there!). The absolute phrase “shoes clattering against the floor” achieves the same effect in prose that the zoom achieves in the clip.
There is lots of good information on the web about these first two brushstrokes, but here is a google slides presentation I put together to help explain them to my 11th graders.