The GoPro © 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 a 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, celebration.
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 uninjured.