Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The green screen

Do you remember watching Jurassic Park and being in awe of the dinosaurs? Huge panoramic shots of miles upon miles of creatures that we never were able to see before. It was utterly magnificent.
I recall sitting on the edge of my seat, marveling at the realism of it all.
But it was only movie magic. A few (Okay, more than a few) clicks and strokes to make a prehistoric world come alive. Industrial Light and Magic is one of the leaders of these kind of special effects. Computer animation. Making the impossible...possible.
And the green screen.
A marvelous device that can make literally ANYTHING appear behind or around an actor. I remember watching the making of "The Matrix." And that scene where Nemo bends backwards and all those little bullets come flying at him. And the Mr. Smith that becomes LOTS of Mr. Smiths. And I was amazed.
What more can they do? I pondered silently.
They can damn near do anything. I saw an article in a TV guide where an actress from ER was sitting on four steps. And behind her was this HUGE brick building. And in the next picture, she was sitting on the four steps in front of NOTHING--but the magnificent green screen.

Writers don't have this option. Or at least not writers of books. There is no green screen. You can't shout "Run program!" at your manuscript and expect a lush setting of your choice to magically appear. There's no one behind the curtain of the Wizard, if you get my drift.

Words are powerful. They create. They destroy. They can be used to do great things.
Because when I write about an island with palm trees, white sand, and blue ocean...each person will process it differently. You may have coconuts on the sand. Wild flowers blooming hapharzardly along the treeline. A ship set sail on the ocean, masts billowing in the breeze.
Because readers don't need green screens. They have the gift of choice and preference.
When I write, I don't tell you what to see. I take you by the hand and lead you gently into my make-believe world. I have a map. But you, dear reader, have the green screen. And that's better than anything out there in the world of media that they imprint on your retinas. Because these images are imprinted in your mind. We share them. And that's the gift.


Tori Lennox said...

Wow! That's an amazing, insightful post, Crystal!

chryscat said...

Tori: Thanks! It was either that or "Ode to Mr. Rogers." I'll save Fred for another day.

Silma said...

That's why I'm not crazy when authors go into too much description. If the heroine has a small kitchen, just say so. Don't give me every detail of it. I know what a small kitchen looks like. Describing it to me is quite insulting. Ugh!

Rene said...

I love to write page after page of lush description...then I delete it because its boring. As you said, give the reader enough to create their own world. Same goes for characters. I try to give enough detail to give a basic to my reader but I let them visualize the person themselves.

Good post.

B said...

Wow, honey, that's precisely the kind of depth and insight that sets you apart. You, my friend, have a long, prosperous career ahead of you, I'm sure of it.