Mise-en-Scène – I Love It When You Talk French

ARSENICm1Mise-en-Scène is a creative tip which, if applied, can make your writing better. First of all, it doesn’t relate to the inclusion of mice in your scenes. It’s an old film and theatre trick which can sometimes transfer across to writing and improve it. But before I launch into the description of what it is and how it can help, I just want to include a caveat for anyone who reads this.

I heard yesterday of a self-published writer who has one book self-published and is now running a writing course for wannabe writers. She’s a “professional writer” now because she’s “published”, and she’s actually charging people who want to hear her wisdom. I just want to remind anyone who reads this blog that I’m just like you. I’m scratching away and trying to learn and develop by continually plodding on. As soon as I hear of something which can help, I put it on here so that it may be of help to you. That’s all, and heaven forbid that I ever charge anyone for writing tips. Yikes.

So, where were we, oh yeah, Mise-en-scene.

What is it?

As movies and theatre productions are forms of visual art, it’s obviously important for them to convey the message of the story visually as well as within the spoken word. No shit. But this often happens subliminally, and the audience aren’t directly aware of it.

They use the composition of the picture, the setting, the props, the lighting, the weather, the costume, the type of actor, and anything else which is taken in by the viewer subconsciously while they watch the action.

How can we use it?

As a writer, we are responsible for setting the mood of our story and making it as poignant as possible, so that the reader becomes totally absorbed in the action. We are the cinematographer, the casting director, the lighting man, the costume lady, it’s up to us to include all of these elements in our story so that we make it as compelling as possible.

  1. Ensure that the place and the props support your theme.
  2. Perhaps the character’s costume changes to depict his/her development.
  3. Is something included just because it’s cool? You need to especially review the use of these darlings and rip them out if they don’t correlate with the overall objective of the scene.
  4. By thinking too hard about this stuff you run the risk of cliché. The mysterious stranger appearing in the rain in the middle of the night etc. Try and fight the use of anything obvious.

If you get it right, it won’t be directly noticeable. It’s meant to bubble away under the surface, supporting and propping up the action without ever taking over. Give it a go and see where it takes you.

Until next time…


2 responses to “Mise-en-Scène – I Love It When You Talk French

  1. Yes, it’s very helpful to create a scene with the aid of a description of the elements of that scene. However, I’ve begun writing assignments with a chair and a notebook in front of pictures in an art gallery. The elements are all there for me to use as prompts and then I can leap forward to the story stage which might need several drafts and several days or weeks before I’m satisfied with the results. One such picture was by photographer Gregory Crewdson whose mysterious work has to be seen in many ways; often, the ‘story’ Is in the detail so ‘read’ the picture carefully. Check his work on his website.

    • Wow, that’s really interesting. Great idea. It’s coming from the completely different angle. Pick the mood, the setting, the props and the characters and let them dictate the story. Great inspiration, I’m guessing.

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