'To Make You See': Screenwriting, description and the ‛lens-based’ tradition

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In this article I look at the descriptive writing in the screenplay, and link this to a tradition of ‘lens-based writing’, the precise visual description of phenomena observed through a lens for an audience unable to see what was described, which can be traced from the writing of Galileo and van Leeuwenhoek, through scientific and travel writing, to early fiction (with particular emphasis on Robinson Crusoe). I identify the most significant features of lens-based writing – the use of simple language and the separation of observation and deduction to communicate what has been seen through a simultaneous act of looking and framing, and show the similarities between this and screenwriting practice. I also make some observations about what this model can offer screenwriting research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-24
JournalJournal of Screenwriting
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2012
EventInvention, Philosophy and Technology in the Seventeenth Century - York, United Kingdom
Duration: 23 May 201223 May 2012


  • ens-based writing,observation,screenplay,prosthetics,telescope

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