Welcome back to the Book Video Workshop. If you missed the first post, you can find it here where we deconstruct the makeup of book videos. Today’s post focuses in on the one element that should come easy to you: writing the script.
You have the creative flair, the knack to create compelling sentences and yet, it’s usually the one thing I see most wrong in book videos. A book video is a mix of elements– music, imagery and words–with one united goal. But ultimately it is the words that will keep you from clicking away. Before we continue, I’d like you to go to youtube.com, search for your favorite genre and book trailer (ie romantic suspense book trailer), and click on a few random links. Don’t think about it, just click. And watch.
Note the very second you want to click away from the video. How far did you get? What is the last thing you remember? Do you recall any of the words you’ve seen? If it’s a video you watched to the end, why?
There are a lot of things that could bore you – the imagery is dull, the music is annoying, it takes too long to get to a point– but there’s one definite reason you would stay despite any of that.
The words compelled you.
If they forced a question in your mind that you couldn’t not get answered or they created a visceral response in your body — your limbs tightened, or your heart squeezed, or you sucked in your breath–you would keep watching.
My guess is that you gave the videos about 3 to 6 seconds to make that happen.
Consider Your Format
The biggest mistake authors make with book videos is in not considering their format. This isn’t a book jacket, viewers aren’t browsing leisurely in a bookstore. Wherever they happened to find your book video, be it YouTube or your website or somewhere else, they are waiting (impatiently) to be not just entertained, but get involved.
A book cover blurb gives away far more of a story than a book video should. The script for a book video should be short, to the point and easy to comprehend. Authors are used to their words doing the walking for them and in book videos, it needs to be a mix of words and imagery that gets the point across, as succinctly and emotionally as possible.
Learn From Movie Trailers
Movie commercials are a perfect example of how to take a story and cull it down to a few sentences that will engage the intended audience. Don’t be intimidated by the imagery they use – instead, watch movie trailers with an awareness to the emotions they are creating in you (and try with the sound off).
The Karate Kid (2010 version)
Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMsZM-MNI1A
(You’ll need to click the link, embedded video is disabled.)
The Movie Blurb:
In Columbia Pictures’ The Karate Kid, 12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) could’ve been the most popular kid in Detroit, but his mother’s (Taraji P. Henson) latest career move has landed him in China. Dre immediately falls for his classmate Mei Ying – and the feeling is mutual – but cultural differences make such a friendship impossible. Even worse, Dre’s feelings make an enemy of the class bully, Cheng. In the land of kung fu, Dre knows only a little karate, and Cheng puts “the karate kid” on the floor with ease. With no friends in a strange land, Dre has nowhere to turn but maintenance man Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), who is secretly a master of kung fu. As Han teaches Dre that kung fu is not about punches and parries, but maturity and calm, Dre realizes that facing down the bullies will be the fight of his life.
A life he never wanted.
A challenge he never imagined.
A teacher he never expected.
The Karate Kid.
Watch the video a second time with the sound turned off and pay attention to the emotion, what the images tell you. What do you get from the script? What do you feel?
This script maintains sentences that are five words or less. And the words are powerful, evocative. Life. Challenge. Teacher. Honor. Courage. Strength.
Does it seem impossible to take your book blurb and drill it down to a handful of sentences? It’s not, I assure you. But you have to shift your intent and focus from summarizing (telling) the story to pulling out the emotion.
Book Videos to Discuss
Here are some book videos that have drilled down their scripts to short and sweet. (In one case, under twenty seconds.) They provide good examples of how to pull out elements of the story to focus your mini-movie on.
Allison Brennan – THE HUNT
The book blurb:
Touched by a killer, she feels the fire of revenge.
Twelve years ago, Miranda Moore miraculously survived the torture of a serial killer who was never caught. Since then, Miranda, a former FBI trainee and now a member of a local search-and-rescue squad, has witnessed with horror the recovery of the mutilated bodies of seven young women, all victims of her tormentor, known as The Butcher. When another beautiful Montana college student goes missing, the Feds get involved, and an agent, a man Miranda once trusted with her heart, arrives to take over the investigation–forcing her toward a painful choice.
Now, while Miranda battles her demons, while friends, lovers, and traitors are caught up in a frantic race against time, a killer hides in plain sight–waiting to finish the one hunt he has left undone.
After the hunt, go in for the kill.
The video script:
Twelve years ago
Now he’s back
For the purpose of grabbing attention, the video is almost over before you consider clicking away… it leaves you wanting more. It also, combined with the visual and audio elements, creates a physical reaction (at least it did in me). Now imagine reading through the entire blurb above set to images. Does that have the same impact? Definitely not.
Jeff Struecker and Alton Gansky – BLAZE OF GLORY
Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBx5rOEescQ
The Book Blurb:
United States Sgt. Major Eric Moyer and his Special Operations unit have been called in to track down a wealthy Egyptian terrorist who is believed to have sordid ties to a sudden increase in female suicide bombers. Chasing El-Sayyed through Italy, they soon gain interconnected details about a Mexican drug lord who is plotting to kill the U.S. and Mexican presidents. Now Moyer and his team must stop not one, but two madmen on separate continents. And with a new member of the unit hiding his struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, a third problem begins to boil.
The Video Script:
The fate of the world’s most powerful leaders rests in the hands of six men.
They must risk everything
Fight a war on two continents
Face the world’s most deadly terrorists
And that’s only half their mission.
This video — specifically the script — actually compelled me to add this book to my purchase list (when it comes out). I’m not one for military thrillers, generally speaking, but I’m intrigued by this. The video did its job — it got me interested enough to look further. From there, the book blurb and other aspects have to take over.
Crafting Your Script
When you’re crafting your script, it’s important to remember the purpose and job of the book video. It isn’t to tell the story. That is what your book cover blurb is for. It’s to grab the reader’s attention enough to want more. So a few points to think about while you write your script:
Work from your elevator pitch. Don’t start with the book blurb and work down. Start with the short ten word sentence that gives the high concept and basic premise of your book and work up from there.
Use short sentences. Longer sentences require time to fully digest and that’s one thing you really don’t have. You don’t want to force a viewer to wait just to finish a complete sentence, because 9 times out of 10 they won’t. Punchy. Quick.
The first sentence will make or break your video. Your viewer’s interest is likely decided within 3 to 6 seconds, so your first sentence needs to make them sit up and pay attention.
Go For The Throat. Or the heart. Or *ah-hem* other body parts if that’s your intent. But you want to touch their emotions, you want to create a visceral response.
Leave them wanting more. Make sure there is an unanswered question when your video is done. That is what will push them to find out more.
Tell Them Where To Get It. Leave room for the call to action. Include your website URL or tell them where (and when) they can buy the book. (If it’s not available now, include a date of when it will be.)
Think of your book video as the goodnight kiss after a successful first date. You aren’t going to take off all your clothes right there on the front porch (I’m assuming…) before puckering up and then sending your date home. But you are going to pucker up your best kiss and send them off wanting more. That is what a good book video does.
A quick thank you to those who submitted scripts for consideration – ultimately, I thought the post would prove more useful to show book videos already in circulation. But I invite everyone to post their efforts in the comments and we can discuss and critique.
Next week, we continue with the workshop and discuss choosing images. We’ll go into how and what to choose and, of course, where to find them. See you then!
And be sure to come back this Thursday, when Nina Davies joins us to discuss her AutoCrit service (I use it, it’s fantastic) — and you could win a membership!