Last night I got involved in a brief discussion. Let me say now that if I hadn’t backed away in frustration the discussion’s brevity would have been endangered.
This man who writes books and seems like a very nice man indeed made the claim that
Movies have developed the art of storytelling down to a science. That is to say that people have certain subconscious expectations regarding when the story elements should occur, and screenwriters know this and take advantage of it. It has more to do with pacing than strict adherence to a prescribed pattern.
In short, if you want to write a book, follow the movies! Goodness knows that those storytellers who have made literally thousands of movies have it all over those writers who’ve filled billions of books. I know when I want to become immersed in a story the absolute first place I turn is to 200 Cigarettes or The House Bunny.
Here’s the thing. I know that there are great stories in movies. I’m a big fan of movies. But a movie is not a book and a book is not a movie. In a movie they have different tools at their exposure–sound and image–and have ways to keep your interest and pique your emotions that go beyond what an author has with a book. A novelist has one tool: words. That’s it.
The problem is that those words may not have as broad a surface coverage as the bag of tricks a filmmaker utilizes, but they can go much deeper. It’s a strange alchemy between word and brain that allows a reader to enter worlds that are impossible to create in any other way. In order to have even a distant approximation film must mount astronomical budgets and the efforts of hundreds of personnel. A book takes an author, a mechanism for recording and transmitting the story (something that’s getting progressively more available), and a reader. All that combines into the art that has persisted for millenia.
So should we be looking to film for “the way to write a book”? Do all books have to start reading like episodes of a television show?