What is Cinemagraphic Writing?

What makes your writing so different? What is Cinemagraphic Writing? How do you know it’s different?” When confronted with these questions, I find myself unable to summarize everything because it is simple and yet complex.

So, true to the nature of Cinemagraphic Writing, I am not going to tell you what it is—I’ll show you because the root of this writing style is “Show—don’t tell.”

Taking from the example I have on my website of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work of Sherlock Holmes: Silver Blaze, let me show you the original, then the Cinemagraphic version, and then I’ll show you how it was taken apart in order to be written Cinemagraphically.

Original Version:

We had been walking briskly during this conversation, and a few more minutes brought us to the hollow in question. At Holme’s request I walked down the bank to the right, and he to the left, but I had not taken fifty paces before I heard him give a shout and saw him waving his hand to me. The track of a horse was plainly outlined in the soft earth in front of him, and the shoe which he took from his pocket exactly fitted the impression.

“See the value of imagination,” said Holmes. “It is the one quality which Gregory lacks. We imagined what might have happened, acted upon the supposition, and find ourselves justified. Let us proceed.”

Cinemagraphic Version:

During this conversation we walked briskly through the moor, and a few more minutes brought us to the hollow in question. I saw Holmes tilt his head as he considered it, but then he gestured for me to walk down the bank on the right while he went to the left. As I trekked my way down about fifty paces, I heard a shout from Holmes, so I snapped my gaze back around to see him waving at me.

Sighing to have gotten this far only to turn back, I hastened to his side and looked down. The track of a horse was plainly outlined in the soft earth at our feet, and I watched as Holmes took from his pocket a horseshoe then squatted down to compare with the impression. Perfect fit.

He looked up at me and smiled. “See the value of the imagination.” Then he looked back at the track again and collected the shoe before rising to his feet and pocketing it once more. “It is the one quality which Gregory lacks. We imagined what might have happened, acted upon the supposition, and find ourselves justified. Let us proceed.” With that, he walked on ahead, and I fell into step with him.

Revision Process using the Original version:

In the blue are the sentences I’ve rearranged, expanded, or rephrased. In the red are my notes as to what I did to the original sentence.

We had been walking briskly (rearrange to make sentence active) during this conversation, and a few more minutes brought us to the hollow in question. At Holme’s request (show his request) I walked down the bank to the right, and he to the left, but I had not taken fifty paces (show the movement of walking) before I heard him give a shout and saw him waving his hand to me. (show Watson’s slight irritation of having to turn back immediately) The track of a horse was plainly outlined in the soft earth in front of him (Show his return to Holmes to view the track. Otherwise it reads as though Watson suddenly teleported to Holmes’ side.) and the shoe which he took from his pocket exactly fitted the impression. (show Holmes place the horseshoe on the track)

(Show Holmes’ glee in realizing the horseshoe fit the track perfectly) “See the value of imagination,” said Holmes. (remove dialogue tag, add body language and movement to get Holmes back to his feet again)“It is the one quality which Gregory lacks. We imagined what might have happened, acted upon the supposition, and find ourselves justified. Let us proceed.” (Show them walk away)

<~>~<~>~<~>

There you have the two styles illustrated. Tell me, which one did you experience? Which one did you visualize better?

So what’s the difference between the two? Both can be lengthy. Both have proper paragraph structure. Is there a way to pull apart a piece of writing to get to its skeleton and say, “Ahha! This is cinemagraphic writing!”?

No—there is no way of distinguishing either style so simply other than the key fact that Cinemagraphic Writing stresses ‘showing’. When you read Cinemagraphic work, you simply know it because the scene was written so clearly, you can recall details of the scene hours, days, and even years after you’ve read it. Perhaps you won’t remember the storyline, the characters names, or exact locations, but you walk away with an image like a picture you took when you were on a trip. You walk away with a memory.

Once when I was fourteen, my mother took me to piano lessons. While waiting for my lesson to get done, she stayed in the van and read my latest fan fiction story to edit and critique it. When I finished my lesson and climbed into the van, she put down my story and stared at me. “Kelly, I have never seen a story so easily—so clearly. I could visualize every detail.”To this day, I can ask her what was the scene she saw on that day when she read it, and she can still tell me.

So I know it’s possible. The only way I can describe Cinemagraphic Writing is: it takes the advice “show—don’t tell” seriously.

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