Framing essentially involves selection and salience. To frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more
salient in a communicating text, in such a way as to promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation, and/or treatment recommendation for the item described. Typical frames diagnose, evaluate, and prescribe.
A frame is a kind of outline ﬁgure with not necessarily all the details filled in…. Comprehension can be thought of as an active process during which the comprehender — to the degree that it interests him — seeks to ﬁll-in the details of the frames that have been introduced, either by looking for the needed information in the rest of the text, by ﬁlling it in from his awareness of the current situation, or from his own system of beliefs or by asking his interlocutor to say more.
With practice, frames can add depth to any story or scene no other tool has the ability to offer, and a slight change can alter the whole reality of the scene. The simple switch of hand vs ass with everything else the same, alters a scene so greatly it could make or break the novel.
For example: You’re out at a night club, dancing with some friends. A large man approaches you, walking toward your group on the dance floor. As he comes closer, you see that his left eye is mauled by a thick scar running from his heavy-brow, down to the line of his jaw. His skin is thick and scarred with pox marks, as if he was caught in a meteor shower as a child. Four feet away from you, he reaches into his jacket and pulls out a massive weapon made of low reflective steel, and the barrel hole comes to the point level with your eyes as he takes another step… are you scared? Damn right you’re scared. You’ll likely die of a heart attack before he can pull the trigger.
Same guy with the gun shoved up his ass, who cares?
But notice the change if the first description isn’t in a night club, but in a daycare center. Move the scene to a drug trafficking house and the man is drawing down on a murderous member of the cartel — changes his whole character and the expectations we have for him.
A woman is standing near her lover, and she is breaking up with him. She has just said that after she leaves, she is going to Europe and doesn’t want him to contact her.
If we put this scene in a restaurant, it has a high comprehension aspect because that’s where these conversations are often played out. It frees us up to listen to her, and to him and focus on their words without the buzz of an off-station radio playing in our heads.
Placing the scene at the Navy base, just before he is about to go up the ramp — Now your head is busy, because the scene became an ambush. Emotions which weren’t discussed or expected begin to rise. Our attitude toward her has changed as well.
Same scene just before she turns to leap out of the skydiving plane — now we’re screwed. Could there be a bomb on the plane? Why did she do it like that? Should he jump out? Did she pack his shoot? The break-up is now shoved into the background as we, with the guy, attempt to divine if he’s going to be alive in the next few minutes.
Framing can be amazing, but it can also hurt you if you aren’t paying attention to what you are describing as apposed to what is going on. In this way I think of it as good color matching. It takes so little to alter the language to become unintentional meanings and purpose; so always choose a ‘mood’ a ‘meaning’ and the frame your scenes to draw those meanings and moods from the dialog.