Monday, April 14, 2014

The GoPro(c) Technique

Recently I watched the 900th Formula One Grand Prix, a breathtaking spectacle of high-tech cars glittering under brilliant lights in the night-time desert of Bahrain. A feast for the eyes even if you don’t care about the intra-team rivalries or the fine details of aerodynamics or the constant jostling over rules.

But I digress.

The pre-race show featured a 20-second montage of those 900 races, dating back to the 1950s. What struck me was not the percentage of the drivers I recognized (a benefit of my age), but the progressive improvement in the images. From grainy black and white stills to handheld newsreels to helicopter shots to in-car cameras, we got closer and closer to the action. During the race, we were able to watch from just above the driver’s head as his car was speared by another and did a barrel roll.* The capability now exists, as in Ron Howard’s film Rush, to show a driver’s pupils narrowing and widening.

In other words, we’ve moved from telling to showing.

It’s one thing to tell the viewer that Esteban Gutierrez crashed; it’s quite another to show the sky rotating over the rollbar of his machine. Though I was ensconced on a comfy sofa, my head spun after that shot.

All of which is to remind you that this is the effect you want to create in your writing. Imagine you are a GoPro© camera attached to your character, seeing through her eyes, hearing through her ears. Even better, imagine you’re a next-generation GoPro©, with the capability to record every physical sensation--the racing heart, the roiling stomach, the aching muscles. And once you’ve done that, take it a much deeper step. We’ll call it an In-Heart camera, perhaps, one that portrays love, hate, anger, joy, fear, rejoicing.

But you don’t need a camera. You’re a writer. All you need are imagination and words. Go on--show the world.

* The driver’s reaction: “Whoa, what was that?” He climbed out unassisted and walked away safely.