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September 8, 2015

How to Write Cinematically- Guest Post by Eric Pierpoint

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Most authors bring other parts of their lives into their books. If an author is also a cartoonist, they'll scribble drawings throughout their story. If they're a scientist, their novel might be infused with facts about black holes. And, if they're an actor, like Eric Pierpoint, they'll make their book a cinematic experience. What does that mean, exactly? According to Eric, it's a way to make books have all of the emotion, action and suspense of movies. Read his blog post below, and he'll explain how he does it in THE LAST RIDE OF CALEB O'TOOLE and in his newest book, THE SECRET MISSION OF WILLIAM TUCK!


     I like to say that I write the kind of books I wish I had read when I was a middle schooler. I love stories full of action and suspense and that have really interesting characters.  I also like to place my stories somewhere in history, like the Revolutionary War or the American Western Migration, so the reader can learn something about the times. In my school visits, teachers have come to me and said, “Thank you! The kids are reading and you’ve made the history fun!” One of the students told me, “When I read THE LAST RIDE OF CALEB O’TOOLE, it was like I was watching a movie!” Yes!

     I have been an actor for a lot of years and have played hundreds of TV and movie roles. I’ve been a Klingon on “Star Trek,” a dad in Liar Liar and a sheriff in Holes. I’ve been “good guys” and “bad guys”.  I tried very hard to make these characters real and entertaining. I have also read thousands of movie screenplays. This helps me greatly in writing historical adventure novels like CALEB or THE SECRET MISSION OF WILLIAM TUCK.

         When you watch a movie in a theater, the sounds and images fill your senses. You enter into the reality that the director, the actors and the writer have built for you. Now, when you read a book, those images come from your own imagination, but they’re also a result of the author’s ability to build his world and stimulate your thoughts. When I write, I try to make these images come to life, just like a movie.

       I want you to see and hear the cannons roar and to feel like you are right next to the characters.  I like to create young heroes who must rely on every fiber of their being to overcome all odds and win in the end. I want to make their thoughts real and believable and give them the skills and abilities they will need for survival. When Caleb races a huge black stallion to win his family a place on a wagon train, the reader has to feel the excitement, how it is to be atop a warhorse at a thundering pace. Feel the wind and hear the cheers. In a movie, we can see it, hear it. It is cinematic! As a writer, I want those images just as clear and exciting. It should jump off the page and into your imagination!

     There is another thing about being both a writer and an actor --- I try to act out every character in my writing, play every part. For example, when I created the British redcoat Captain Scroope who executes William’s brother in THE SECRET MISSION OF WILLIAM TUCK, I used my experience as an actor to invent what he looks like, how he walks or talks and his attitude. Scroope must be a very real and formidable enemy so that when William comes face to face with him at the end of the book, it is a dangerous and exciting situation.

     Another part of writing cinematically, like a movie, is the pacing and the plot. Movie scenes can’t be too long or slow. When the filming is done, the editor takes charge and cuts the movie down to keep things exciting and moving at a good pace. Why? Well, they don’t want you to get bored!  I try to make the plots very exciting and also move the story along at a really fast pace. My experience as an actor tells me when it’s time to “cut” to the next scene or stop the frantic pace, slow down and give the story and characters a chance to breathe…add depth.

     I also put a lot of historical information in my books. Now, I can’t put so much in that it bogs down the story, so I try to include it in an exciting way, like a movie.  When William is captured, he is taken aboard a prison ship called the HMS Jersey. Instead of just detailing prison ships of the Revolutionary War in a factual way, I want the reader to experience everything through William, see everything, feel the danger as he tries to survive and figure a way off the boat. When Caleb attempts to turn away a buffalo stampede, I want readers to not only feel like they are riding along with him but also learn about what the buffalo meant to Native Americans and what happened to the great herds.

     All in all, writing is hard work, but it is very exciting and challenging to bring a story to life. And when readers enjoy my books? That’s the pay off!


 Eric Pierpoint is a veteran Hollywood character actor who’s begun a writing career with several screenplays in development.His ancestors came west on the Oregon Trail in the mid 1800s, so Eric and his dog, Joey, followed in their wagon wheel tracks and traveled cross-country researching The Last Ride of Caleb O’Toole. Visit www.ericpierpoint.net.