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James R Musgrave

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Writing with the Inner Camera
by James R Musgrave   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, November 21, 2005
Posted: Sunday, June 17, 2001

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Learn to use point-of-view in your fiction to its best purpose. These lessons teach writers to think with their "head cameras" before they compose.

Lesson Objectives:· See how the inner camera becomes the character’s vision.· Learn how to describe what the character sees from the inside.· Using symbol to connect with your work’s premise.Creating an “inner camera” for the reader is one of the most important duties for the beginning writer. This entails the ability to see the world through each character’s eyes (and nose, ears and taste buds—if need be). Even minor characters should be given this ability to view in a special way in order to make them memorable to the reader and so they don’t become merely “stock stereotypes.” You know what those stock characters are, don’t you? The hooker with the heart of gold, the evil banker, the lonesome cowboy, are all stock stereotypes.Character “vision” is determined by the personality traits and basic psychological make-up of your creation. In order for your character’s inner camera to remain consistent, you must choose inner details, which are appropriate for this individual’s quality and purpose in the story. In other words, you can’t sudden insert a vision that seems inappropriate to the character (unless you are writing comedy). To let you see what I mean, let’s take a character with which most people are familiar: Scarlet O’Hara, in Margaret Mitchell’s classic novel Gone With the Wind. There is a scene after Scarlet escapes the burning fires of Richmond, and she begins to make a comeback as a worker and leader of her new plantation Tara. However, a lone Union soldier breaks into her house and comes at her to possibly kill or rape her. What if Scarlet thought to herself, Oh, my heavens! How can I save myself? Me, a pitiable, elfin little thing! Then, she suddenly swooned in front of this aggressor and fainted dead away. This would be entirely inconsistent with the character Mitchell has been building for us for over 600 pages! You know what the real Scarlet did? That’s right, she plugged that damn Yankee with her Daddy’s Rebel revolver!Thus, whenever we see Scarlet, her inner camera consistently portrays a woman who has confidence, inner strength and a resilience that will last her throughout a Civil War and into Southern Reconstruction. The reader will see any deviation from this kind of character strength as unseemly, indeed! In fact, even when Rhett Butler decides he’s had enough of Scarlet and her superior, ways, she fights him like a wildcat, and he must take her by force. Many Feminists point to this portrayal as an invalid depiction of male/female sexual relations (even rape), but in terms of Scarlet’s “inner camera” this is exactly what she must do! So, when she’s standing alone in the middle of her land, she finally understands what her father taught her about power—true male power!The writer must envision all acts and responses of each major character with the same kind of consistency as we see in Scarlet O’Hara. Thus, when I wrote my Civil War novel Iron Maiden (available as a serial from, I needed to maintain this same kind of inner camera with my major characters, one of which was a person who, in real life, would have probably been one big bag of inconsistencies. I know, because I served in the military, and when I was in I did not have a clue! I was too frightened inside most of the time to be consistent about anything. I ranged from clandestinely listening to Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkle in my quarters to wanting to volunteer for duty in Vietnam! This is the true inconsistency of the young.This certainly could not happen with my young lieutenant, Samuel Dana Greene, in Iron Maiden. First of all, his character was the inspiration behind my creative “leap.” I did research into the battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack (C.S.S. Virginia), and I had discovered that this young man unexplainably committed suicide in the 1880s. He had briefly been the captain-in-charge during the historic battle at Hampton Roads, Virginia in 1862, in which the two famous ironclads fought to a draw.That’s when my creativity took off. The old “what if?” created a question in my mind, which eventually led to my novel’s basic premise and plotline. What if this young lieutenant were manipulated by a much older and more ingenious man, who needed to stop the U.S.S. Monitor from defeating the Virginia that day (for personal reasons), and he decided to indoctrinate this young man until Greene ultimately becomes a suicidal wreck? The three major characters in my novel, Iron Maiden, are locked inside their own obsessions. Lieutenant Greene’s obsession is to make this father-figure genius--Captain John Ericsson, inventor of the Monitor and unscrupulous war profiteer--proud of his every action. Lieutenant Greene is romantic, idealistic and also quite gullible. He reads the Transcendentalists (such as the poet, Walt Whitman), and he believes they are prophets. So, when Ericsson begins to weave the fantasy of a secluded island where they would live after the war, the die is cast for the climactic collision of characters later in the book. The third major character in this triad of obsession, British Captain (and blockade runner for the Confederacy) Walter Sinclair, has his own obsession. Sinclair wants to prove that America and Americans are all hypocrites, and that his inner motives are ideally what the “colonies” should be striving toward. His “job” in the novel is to attempt an assassination of Ericsson, a theft of the Monitor’s blueprints, and the ultimate destruction of the ship itself on its maiden voyage. Needless to say, history must ring true , but not before these characters become obsessively entangled in a very human way. And, all through this action, I must be certain each character remains true to his “inner camera,” or his consistent reality as I have ordained it from the beginning (gee, being a creator encompasses a lot of power, eh what?). Using Symbol to Show Character Scarlet O’Hara had a name that symbolized her power: red. This color, psychologists tell us, is the color of action and anger, strength and power. Women wear their “power red” suit blazers today to show the men that they are in charge. You can choose symbols, like color, to create an aura of consistency within your reader’s mind. Thus, when I first describe my lead character, as he writes to his partner in a letter, I have him describe himself in a most interesting (and symbolic) manner:“I am a rather stone-faced man, a bit under six feet in height, with a massive forehead that reminds me of a drawing I once viewed, by anthropologist Dr. Raymond Pile, in the Encyclopedia of Homo Sapiens in which an ape man entitled "Cro-Magnon" is stupidly glaring out at the reader with a club slung over his hairy shoulder. People have said, I must admit, that I have "a bludgeoning self?confidence.” (Iron Maiden, Chapter One) This passage is symbolic because it shows the reader how my inventor sees himself from the inside. Although he has demonstrably shown himself earlier to be a genius of no small proportions, this short passage about his physical stature shows the reader what he really pictures himself as: an ape man. This later plays an important part in my development of the plot as Ericsson weaves his deceptive tale about the island called “Easter,” which he tricks the young lieutenant into believing is part of a lost, ancient civilization where the natives “worshipped gigantic beings.” He also mentions Darwin’s famous book of the time, The Origin of the Species. Are you beginning to see how this is playing out? Ericsson is outwardly a gentleman and a genius inventor of fighting ships, but inwardly, he sees the world through the eyes of an ape-man! If you can keep that inner camera rolling whenever you speak through your characters, then you are on the road to true creativity and a successful work of literature! 

Web Site: Jim Musgrave's Insides

Reader Reviews for "Writing with the Inner Camera"

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Reviewed by Andre Bendavi ben-YEHU

Time is proving that there is an inner artistic creative magic in Your penpower, and a didactical aroma in the breath of Your words. Reading Your works, short stories, poems and articles is like attending to a motion-picture review.

I have enjoyed the reading of "Writing with the Inner Camera", which adds a new chapter of true creative prose to the literary history of the twenty-first century.

Andre Emmanuel Bendavi ben-YEHU
Reviewed by Leonard Goslee


THANK YOU FOR THIS "Writing with the Inner Camera".

L. T. Goslee
Reviewed by Leonard Goslee
WOW! It is most unusual to find another writer who perceives the written word as function of the camera within the mind. I rated this a 10 because it provides just that perspective from which all art must flow or else it falls to the paper as only another alphabet. Cheers and chow, Vicki
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