How to Edit Like a Director

editing-like-a-director-tisha-martin-how-to-edit

Hello! How’s your editing been going for you? I hope you’re seeing great improvement, but if you’re at a loss for how to edit or even what it consists of, take heart.

Editing is as much an art form as writing, so the more you practice, the better your results will be. Last month, we looked at three ways to think like an editor. This month, we’ll switch gears and look at how to edit like a director. Rather, we’ll transform our story into the stage and our characters into actors. You enjoy a well-done performance, don’t you? Consider what makes up a stunning stage performance . . . and we’ll incorporate a few tips for how to edit like a director.

Three tips for how to edit like a director

  1. Captivating dialogue

I understand. Dialogue is hard to craft because as in life, there’s emotion, nuance, and subtext in our characters’ dialogue. When crafting my own dialogue between my characters, I must reflect on the general goal I want my hero and/or heroine to accomplish. And whatever that goal is the dialogue should mirror that goal. For instance, if my amateur detective heroine wants to get admission into the exhibit so she can scoop up clues from last night’s painting theft, but no one will let her in because that section of the museum has been closed off, she’s got to convince the ticket master that it’s important to let her in. What might that dialogue consist of?

Amateur detective: “Sir, I’m with the police. I’d like to be let inside the exhibit hall, so I may conduct my search.”

Ticket master: “I’m very sorry. Only the private investigators are allowed in there.”

Amateur detective: “But I am a private investigator.”

Ticket master: “Hardly, miss. Where are your credentials?”

  1. Strong character actions

Outside of dialogue, strong character actions is the most important element on the stage because it connects the audience with the actors and endears them to the entire story. Likewise, giving your story characters specific movements throughout each story scene will entice our readers to want to engage with the story. Let’s take the dialogue we crafted between the amateur detective and the ticket master and incorporate some strong character actions.

Lily Nash stepped inside the museum’s expansive lobby, searching for the ticket counter. Ah, there, near a huge marble column. “Sir, I’d like to be let inside the exhibit hall, so I may conduct a search from last night’s robbery.”

“I’m very sorry, but that’s closed to the public. Only private investigators are allowed in there.” The ticket master stamped a few papers and filed them.

Gripping her handbag, she said, “But I am a private investigator.”

The ticket master cast a scorning glance down at her over his thin metal spectacles. “Hardly, miss. Where are your credentials?”

Did you notice yourself envision the scene, what the characters might look like, and how their voices might sound, based from this scene? Does it seem like Lily isn’t as prepared as she should be, and the ticket master is a stern fellow? Do you hear the desperation in Lily’s voice and the disbelief in the ticket master’s? Can you see the lobby’s high ceiling and the large, stone columns? We have not included anything but character actions and dialogue, and perhaps you are connected with the scene already.

  1. Strong transitions between scenes

Incorporating strong transitions between your story’s scenes will help your readers connect the dots and stay on track with the story as it ebbs and flows, leading to the climax and the ending. Now, we’ll take the last scene, with dialogue and character action, and create transition scenes before and after.

Looking up at the front of the art museum, Lily Nash clutched her stomach. Her first assignment alone.

She stepped inside the museum’s expansive lobby, searching for the ticket counter. Ah, there, near a huge marble column. “Sir, I’d like to be let inside the exhibit hall, so I may conduct a search from last night’s robbery.”

“I’m very sorry, but that’s closed to the public. Only private investigators are allowed in there.” The ticket master stamped a few papers and filed them.

Gripping her handbag, she said, “But I am a private investigator.”

The ticket master cast a scorning glance down at her over his thin metal spectacles. “Hardly, miss. Where are your credentials?”

“I have them, sir.” Lily dug through her handbag. Fear gripped her throat. She’d had it at the station. Without another word to the ticket master, she turned and fled the building.

Transitions don’t have to extend to several sentences or even paragraphs. Just mention enough to get your characters from one place to the next so it will be clear to your readers how your characters are moving throughout the story as it progresses, hopefully, from good to bad to worse to a climactic ending with a satisfying end.

Just as each theatrical production has its own style, theme, and tone, your story has its own style, scene exchanges, dialogue, and tone so that the message truly reaches the reader’s heart. The bottom line is to make sure your writing shows an entire story being acted out as if it were a theatrical production. Now, take a small scene from your current WIP and see how you can transform it into a scene that fully engages readers in dialogue, character actions, and transitions.

Please join in the discussion! I’d love to hear from you!

Take a few minutes and ruminate. What is one self-editing tip that’s helped you recently? (I’d love to see an example too!)

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