Sunday, January 20, 2013

"Filmisms" in novels

A lot of us have grown up with at least four mediums, books, radio, tv, and video games. Now we've had about two generations start their lives wired to the internet.

All of these mediums have impacted us and molded the way we think of stories, how to process them and how to tell them.  Yet for all the ways people seem more savvy on how these related industries work, it's shocking how most are blissfully unaware of the limitations of each medium.

You've heard, "The book was better than the movie."*  On the flip side, a lot of film techniques suck for book writing.

My first sin in that regard was when I had a character close the door to her personal dojo. I described the sounds of  boards breaking, grunts, and mysterious chittering sounds. Then she opens the door and I went into the details of how things were sliced and diced, yet there wasn't a sword in the room or on her person.  I thought that sounded cool.

Everyone who read it thought it broke POV, and omniscient view broke the noir vibe I was going for. 

I've also tried ways of writing for flashes of vision when a character is getting trounced or spun around in a car. The closest I got to making that work was "And then he saw blue sky, then grass, then sky, then grass and then black." Any thing more elaborate was too jarring for a reader.

What got me thinking about this was a recent workshop meeting. Twice, a writer tried to pull of the literary trick of watching a desperate scene in the distance and evoke a feeling of doom and helplessness from the hero could only watch. His inspiration was a scene from a movie.

Now, there may be a way to do that in a book, but it will need internal dialogue. Just describing the visuals ain't gonna cut it. (stet. I wrote that way on purpose.)

The obvious moral to this story is that why you can have internal movies and visually stunning books, you need to know the techniques to pull those tricks off. Cutting and pasting from one medium is not the way to do it.

*Seriously, how can you not figure out that two hours are jamb packed when try to introduce,engage, and resolve the hero's dilemma.  All the time you get to know character in books (subplots and internal dialogue) comes with a budget you have to justify to the investors.

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