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Setting through a Camera Lens


If you go back and look closely at the writing of a story or book you did not want to put down, you will usually discover that the settings in the story had a variety of perspectives which allowed you, as the reader, to become fully involved and immersed in it.

The change of perspective in a story from a close-up shot -- to a middle shot -- to a long range shot changes the orientation for the reader and thereby gives them a sense of involvement.

Similar to a director of a movie, adding different angles and distances into your settings is a choice you make as the writer. Your decisions show different viewpoints depending on the setting technique you choose.

Let’s use a generalization from a John Wayne cowboy movie as an example:

The movie begins with a scene of a large group of Native American Indians riding their horses quickly down a path on a mountain in the distance. That is a long shot.

Next you see a group of four men on horses talking together and maybe pointing toward the large group of Indians starting to get closer. That is a middle shot.

Finally you see a shot of John Wayne sitting on his horse and the camera moves closer until the frame only shows his head and shoulders. That is a close-up shot.

In these three shots we learn a large group of Indians are rushing down a mountain toward the smaller group of four cowboys. Then we learn that the hero, John Wayne has instructions to help the group of four men who are very concerned.

If you were to write this part of the story out from one perspective or viewpoint, say the group of four men—we as readers learn of the Indians far off in the distance making their way closer. We also learn of the hero that will help this group of men. However, we are unable to learn about the actual men in the group of four because we are seeing everything from their perspective.

Now if you use the perspective of a narrator for example who is looking down from above you will see the Indians and maybe have more information about them. You will see the group of four men and know what they look like and what they sound like so you have more information about them. And you will see the hero as well.

There are two main patterns for using perspective in your creative nonfiction writing. The first is to move from a long range shot – to a middle shot – to a close-up shot. The second is to move from a close-up shot – to a middle shot – to a long range shot.

These two main patterns are not set in stone. There are times when you may want to use a close-up shot -- to a long range shot or vice versa. It is totally up to you as the writer. Keep in mind however, that the point of using perspective is to help your reader understand the story and keep them involved.

One rule-of-thumb is to use the long range shot – to a middle shot – to a close-up shot if you are setting your scene in an exotic locale. By using this sequence you will alert the reader to the exotic location so they know where the action is going to take place. Then by moving to the middle shot followed by the close-up shot you allow them to really feel the scene in a more intimate and familiar way. This will allow them to feel comfortable in the scene even if they are unfamiliar with the location itself.

As you are revising your rough draft have fun changing the perspective in your scenes until you feel as though you have the right mix for your readers.

Remember the whole point of paying attention to the settings in your scenes is to involve your audience in your story so they can have a great experience with it.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Bluedolphin Crow. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Bluedolphin Crow. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Bluedolphin Crow for details.

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Setting through Action

Setting - an Overview

Setting - Atmosphere

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