Writers who want to incorporate cinematic techniques into their fiction need, first, to translate the latter into their literary equivalents. I use the word “equivalents” loosely, of course, as there is not precise equivalence between the techniques of the soundstage and the page.
So, what are these “equivalents”?
The camera = description. Everything the camera “sees” can be communicated, in writing, only by way of description. The camera has the advantage of showing everything at once, if it chooses, or of focusing exclusively, and in minute detail, on only one person or object, close up, leaving it to the viewer to perceive that which is displayed and to sort for him- or herself those people (actors) or objects included in the scene upon whom or which he or she chooses to concentrate attention. Of course, through a variety of other techniques—camera angle, intensity, contrast, special effects, and so forth—the director, the cinematographer, and others involved in shooting the scene—can direct the viewer's attention and direct the audience's focus, but, ultimately, it is up to those who watch the movie to see what they will. novelists have a different advantage. Unlike filmmakers, they can appeal to the senses of touch, smell, and taste, as well s to the two senses available for moviemakers' exploitation—sight and hearing. Literary authors can also take their readers inside the minds of their characters, describing their thoughts and feelings about the sights, sounds, tactile sensations, tastes, and sounds they experience during a scene. (A word of caution: novelists should be careful not to overuse description. Unless a picture, or word-picture, is central to a scene or some other narrative element, such as theme, it should be spare, rather than florid. Because filming a movie is enormously expensive, screenwriters have learned to make every image and word count, and most directors plan every second of the filming of each scene. Economy is the filmmaker's watchword, as it should be that of the novelist. As Mark Twain advised, writers should be careful to “eschew surplusage.”)
The camera = point of view. In film, the movie is shown from the camera's point of view, whether the perspective is that of an omniscient, a first-person, or a limited third-person “narrator.” In literary fiction, the point of view can be more complex and experimental and can more easily involve the shifting or alternating perspectives of two or more characters.
Actor = character. It's only partly true that the actor = the literary character, because the screenwriter also creates the movie character. The writer puts the words into the characters' mouths, and, through such dialogue, the character's personality becomes apparent, as does his or her attitude, emotions, values, principles, beliefs, and so forth. By interpreting and projecting these words on the page, actors bring these qualities to life on the screen, making these intangibles tangible.
Audio bridge = transition. In cinema, there are more techniques to indicate a transition from one time to another or from one place to another than there in literary fiction. In the latter, space breaks on thee page or a phrase, or a sentence is all a writer can use to indicate such a shift in time or place. Filmmakers, on the other hand, can use an audio bridge, defined, in Filmsite's “Film Terms Glossary,” as “an outgoing sound (either dialogue or sound effects) in one scene that continues over into a new image or shot [that] connects the two shots or scenes.” As an example of an audio bridge, the Filmsite's article cites Apocalypse Now's use of “the sound of helicopter blades are linked to the next scene of the spinning blades of an overhead fan.” Films also use a number of visual transitions to indicate a change in scene, including the “cut, fade, dissolve, and wipe” (“Film terms Glossary”).
Cut – transition. A cut is “an abrupt or sudden change or jump in camera angle, location, placement, or time, from one shot to another” and may be accomplished in numerous ways.
Fade = transition. A fade can also be accomplished in a number of ways:
[A fade is] a transitional device consisting of a gradual change in the intensity of an image or sound, such as from a normally-lit scene to darkness (fade out, fade-to-black) or vice versa, from complete black to full exposure (fade in), or from silence to sound or vice versa; a 'fade in' is often at the beginning of a sequence, and a 'fade out' at the end of a sequence; a cross-fade means fading out from one scene and into another (often with a slight dissolve or interruption) (“Film Terms Glossary).
Dissolve = transition. A dissolve is “the visible image of one shot or scene is gradually replaced, superimposed or blended (by an overlapping fade out or fade in and dissolve) with the image from another shot or scene.” For example, in Metropolis, this technique “dissolves that transform the face of the heroine Maria into the face of an evil robot.” (“Film Terms Glossary”).
Wipe = transition. A wipe occurs when “one shot appears to be "pushed off" or "wiped off" the screen by another shot replacing it and moving across the existing image.”
There are other film techniques that correspond, roughly, with literary techniques, which is not surprising, since filmmakers, limited to sight and sound, have had to devise ways, using these two methods of storytelling to communicate what novelists accomplish through linguistic means. Now that the stage has largely replaced the page as the storytelling medium of choice for the general public, at least, novelists, in telling their tales, might want to adopt, as far as possible, some of the techniques their cinematographic friends have developed. That mean, first of all, thinking in terms of showing, rather than telling. Thinking as a screenwriter, rather than as a novelist, should facilitate this objective. Again, there is no precise match between the techniques of filmmaking and those of writing novels, but these media's approaches to storytelling are close enough to allow an approximation on the part of the novelist. For example, a novelist cannot use an audio bridge (unless, perhaps, in an audiobook). However, he or she can simulate the use of this technique. Here's an example, using the audio bridge in Apocalypse Now (mentioned above):
The helicopter's whirling rotors were louder and much faster than the leisurely turning blades of the softly humming ceiling fan.
By using sights and sound to appeal the senses of vision and hearing, this transitional sentence imitates an audio bridge, indicating a shift in time and place, as the story's scene changes.
Similar approaches can be taken to suggest many of the other cinematographic techniques motion picture crews use to tell—or show—their stories.
Novelists who want to emulate screenwriters should familiarize themselves with the terms associated with moviemaking and adapt them to the process of writing novels to develop their own set of similar approaches to storytelling. Filmsite's “Film Terms Glossary” is a good resource for this purpose. Novelists who seek cinematographers' techniques for characterization, plot development, story structure, narration, setting, and theme and then, with these (and some actual examples from films) in mind, devise their own similar approaches, are likely to write “cinematographic” novels, which show more than tell. General audiences everywhere will thank them.
Note: Read “The Exorcist: A Marriage of Spirit and Matter in the Style of William Peter Blatty,” my post about William Peter Blatty's use of in his novel The Exorcist for a sense of how a novelist (who was also a screenwriter) uses cinematographic techniques to write a compelling “cinematographic” novel. Novelists can also learn to write this hybrid type of story by reading novels by other screenwriters. Stephen J. Cannel's book, TheProstitutes' Ball, is not only a novel, but, in a sense, a how-to book about writing screenplays and novels!