In fact, often when I pull back as a narrator, I’m prompted to bring this moment to life instead and pick up on the action.
For example, in the latest draft of a work in progress, there was a point where I summed up a long-lost cousin’s predicament by simply stating that Miranda (the unwitting sleuth) underscored the situation one last time and moved on.
The editor felt I should let the moment play out which led to this revision:
“Look,” Miranda finally said, “I hate to break it to you, kiddo, but the facts are the facts. Cindy at the motel swore it was a guy on a motorcycle who snuck into your room at the crack of dawn. Then tossed your cat into an airport rental where he crawled up by the rear window as the car took off. The upshot is, right-wing pundit Russ Mathews damn well was the driver. He’d obviously flown all the way down from New York to keep you under wraps one way or another.”
As Skip sat there in the passenger seat in stunned silence, she couldn’t help but notice a white compact pulling in a few rows back of the entrance to the ER. It could very well have been that selfsame Toyota Corolla airport rental.
In terms of these frequent prods, the only cinematic justification my editor ever gave was an occasional “given your background” (theater and film), “your genre” and/or “your style” (highly visual and self-generating).
All told, what’s gratifying about this approach is the feedback I’ve generally received from readers. Take a response from Moon Games, my latest foray into the cozy genre. A lady mystery buff from the heartland was taken by “so much going on.” She felt she had to keep alert, like a moviegoer who didn’t want to slip out to the concession stand and miss something. Upon reaching the twisty climax, she declared she was happy she stuck with all the scenes.
Like everything else, seeing the unfolding tale from a movie perspective is no guarantee of success. However, employing it as part of your writing arsenal surely helps to keep the reader engrossed.