Punctuation of Cinemagraphic Writing

The use of punctuation in Cinemagraphic Writing differs slightly from the Traditional use. Let’s review the basics of punctuation. 

Period: (.)

  • Used at the end of a declarative sentence (statement): It is sunny outside today.
  • Also used at the end of an imperative sentence (command/request): Go to the safe house.

Question Mark: (?)

  • Used at the end of an interrogative sentence (question): Did you see that lightning?

Exclamation Mark: (!)

  • Used at the end of an exclamatory sentence (exclamation): That thunder shook the house!

Colon: (:)

  • Used before lists or to illustrate a point in casual works of writing: He had three reasons not to go outside: rain, lightning, and thunder.

Semicolon: (;)

  • Used in place of a period to link two sentences together that are closely related: The rain lasted all day; Harry wondered if it would ever stop.

Comma: (,)

  • Used with a conjunction to combine two sentences: The rain lasted all day, and Harry wondered if it would ever stop.
  • Also used to separate dependent clauses within a sentence: Finally Susan, who had gone shopping for shoes and got stuck in the rain, came home. Another example at the beginning of the sentence: Not wanting to get wet, Susan raced to the house.
  • It is also used before or after directly addressing someone in dialogue, (before) “Hi, Susan!” and (after) “Where have you been, Susan?”

There are numerous other ways commas are used, but let’s continue.

Ellipsis: (…)

  • Used to show a pause in thought or dialogue: “It was raining…you know I don’t like the lightning.”
  • Also useful to show the trailing off of something being said. “I waited for the storm to stop…”

Dash: (—)

  • Used to show interruption in dialogue: “Don’t you understand—”
  • Used to separate dependent clauses within a sentence: Finally Susan—who had gone shopping for shoes and got stuck in the rain—came home.
  • Connects fragments to the original thought without losing its impact: The rain stopped—finally.
  • It might have the strength to replace semicolons: The rain lasted all day—Harry wondered if it would ever stop.

I would go into detail on every one of these, but there are some things to say about a few of them.

The comma has always been difficult to master. “Put a comma where you breathe,” it’s been said, but that’s not true. My mother, who is an expert with English, does voiceover, and her coaches tell her repeatedly, “Ignore the commas. Don’t read it like an English teacher. Just read it like you’re talking.” Commas have a distinct purpose as I listed above. Be sure you know where you put the commas and why.

The ellipsis is frowned upon and viewed as a distraction. I used to use this all the time until someone pointed it out to me. At first I took offense, but then I went back and realized they were right. “But I want those pauses in the passage!” I struggled with this and to came three conclusions:

1) Ellipsis are acceptable in any death scene.

2) They are also acceptable if there is a stutter or hesitation in dialogue: “I…I don’t know what happened!”

3) Dashes are just as efficient—if not better—for pauses. Consider this: The rain stopped…finally. And now this: The rain stopped—finally.

If it is not a death scene, but there is a noticeable pause in something being said, consider closing the quote with a comma and then quotation marks. Outside of the dialogue, add a small physical action soon followed by the rest of the quote: Change “You weren’t there…you didn’t see what happened.” to this: “You weren’t there,” Susan shook her head, “You didn’t see what happened.” The physical action naturally provides a pause as well as paints a clearer picture to the scene.

The dash is useful if you don’t know what punctuation to use—comma, semicolon, etc. When they are in the middle of the sentence locking in a dependent clause, it keeps the original thought on track and easy to remember because all you have to do is go back to before the first dash to recall the subject and jump over to what’s at the end of the last dash to complete the thought. For example:

Finally Susan—who had gone shopping for shoes and got stuck in the rain—came home.

The middle of that sentence ‘who had gone shopping for shoes and got stuck in the rain’ has a dash on either side of it. Take out that middle part, and it reads, ‘Finally Susan came home.’ Still a complete sentence which makes sense independently, but the middle part is added to give more detail without interrupting the flow.

During a conversation, someone might be interrupted or simply trail off. The punctuation will be different depending on which it is. If it is a sharp interruption or someone being cut off from speaking, the sentence would end with a dash:

Interruption: “You don’t know what you’re talking about—”

But if the person speaking merely trails off and stops talking, an ellipsis will be used:

Trailing off: “You don’t know what you’re talking about…”

It all depends on the conversation.

The dash has a sharp edge to it and can add the extra little punch or pause to a sentence. It offers a precise tone for the conversation or narrative, which cannot be done with a comma or an ellipsis. So, experiment with the dash. You might be surprised. 

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.

How It All Began

In the beginning of writing, there were ideas, words, and no set rules. Storytelling took many forms–oral, poetry, plays, and finally novels. Each step grew upon the former, and so the art of writing developed.

Then it stopped.

There is no new idea. There is no such thing as an original idea.” This concept crept into our minds and limited us. Believing we could no longer make up anything in the ‘make-believe’ world, we did the only thing we could do: look back at what there was and mix and blend everything until we had something magical.

At first this was unique. Then it was acceptable. Now it is the standard by which all the Gatekeepers of the Writing World measure each new work. They kept out the different writing–good or bad. They had their own agenda: the market.

When self-publishing emerged, a new path into the Writing World was created. Only then was the Gatekeepers’ greatest fear–the original reason for their existence–realized. Without them, the world of writing would spiral downward into oblivion until writing becomes nothing more than a disdained relic of the past.

They were right.

And they are now wrong.

They were right in the regards that the Writing World needs protection from careless, nondedicated, and one-shot writers.

They are wrong to think they themselves are the keepers of the gate in possession of the key that will unlock people’s potential. This mindset led to the Traditional way of writing, which now makes up 99.7% of all published work.

The Writing World has changed. The Traditional way has not; the more they resist change, the more abrupt the change will be. For instance, if you’re in a car accident, and you brace yourself for impact, you will most likely suffer broken bones; however, if you relax and don’t tense up, your bones won’t break so easily–this is why drunks can walk away from a terrible accident with minor injuries. I do mean to say we all need to become drunk writers? Absolutely not. But if you don’t bend, you’ll break, and you won’t be able to be pieced back together.

All is not lost. This downward spiral can be stopped. Instead of looking down in despair at the direction we seem to be taking, we need to look up and see the other path: Cinemagraphic writing.

Is the Traditional way of writing wrong? No–of course not, but now writers have another option: Cinemagraphic writing.