1. carsun1000
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    carsun1000 Active Member

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    Must your book read like watching a movie?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by carsun1000, Nov 13, 2015.

    In my quest for a good understanding in writing styles, I came across a authors that have found different ways to make an impression on me. Jonathan Kellerman's novels have always left me to do the imagining (in other words, stingy with details) while John Sandford (Prey series) always seemed like I am actually watching a movie (a lot of details).

    While it's always good for one to find his/her own voice, it can be conflicting to find a medium that combines both style. Do you worry about how much information or details you share with your readers or you just wait on the editors to the the red ink pen to your manuscript and tell you what to do? Maybe at the end of the day, it's the editors and publishers' choice if your work is worth publishing at all, and not really what you shared with your readers.

    How do you find a balance?
     
  2. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Novels and movies are different media.

    But everyone knows that. What a lot of new writers don't seem to know is how that translates to writing. It's very easy to try to write a story as if you're describing what's happening on the movie screen. But what you tend to end up with is a list of stage directions, forcing the reader to imagine the scene exactly according to a spec sheet. As a reader, that doesn't sit well with me.

    One of the most useful tools in a writer's toolbox is the reader's imagination. I don't want my hand held while I'm reading, I want to be free to imagine the scene how I want. Use that to your advantage as a writer. Use it to create suspense, to mislead, to distract. You're a magician, after all--use your sleight of hand to misdirect me and then hit me with the twist.

    But it also goes beyond that. The POV of one watching a movie is an audience member on the sidelines, while the POV of one reading a book is usually the story's narrator. The writing should come from the POV. If you're writing from the POV of a spectator on the sidelines, all you'll get is dry description and a listing of actions that bores the reader. By writing from the POV of the narrator (often a character in the scene), you can tap into that narrator's voice--the thoughts and biases of the character, and the emotional responses that character has to the scene happening around him or her. That's the stuff that pulls the reader in and makes her or him care enough about the character to keep reading.

    Movies have a hard time getting into a character's head, because the camera and the audience are outside the character. But with prose, you can put the POV anywhere you want--as close to the character as you want. That's one of the reasons books are changed when they're adapted to film, and a lot of times it's responsible for why the movie may not work as well.

    As far as whether an engaging book makes you, the reader, picture the scene as a movie, well, that's up to each individual reader. I usually don't, because I never try to fill in all the details in my mind. Even the characters are often blurs. But I guarantee every reader is different in that regard. So I wouldn't worry too much about how your reader is going to picture your story. Provide the reader with the details he or she needs and let her or his imagination do the rest of the work.

    All IMO, of course.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2015
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  3. carsun1000
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    carsun1000 Active Member

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    Thanks for your input. Got another question. Books are turned into movies all the time, so what gives? Doesn't that mean that someone was convinced enough by reading it and it read like a movie to that person?
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    No. They just thought it was good enough, for one reason or another, to be adapted into a movie. But that's an entirely different medium, as noted above. I don't think anyone would see Lord of the Rings as reading like a movie. Emma has been adapted to the screen numerous times, and its about as far as you can get from reading like a movie. I don't see any connection between a book reading like a movie and someone wanting to adapt it.
     
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  5. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    No. There are books that make, or would make, good movies because they're very plot driven but they're two entirely different mediums. Anyone having read Lolita and then watched the two movies can see that both versions missed something behind the details. While the old movie recognized the black humor, the new movie, though richly detailed, completely messed up the tone. Both movie's weren't bad but they weren't very good adaptions.
    That's the trouble with thinking language can be easily translated into visuals and aurals - you loose that magic that happens in the readers imagination and you also loose the connection to the mc. You're no longer participant but passenger.

    I think the idea is not to figure out the level of detail but the importance of details to a specific scene. Having read ( on another site ) a lot of story intro's I find the most problematic is that there isn't an importance on setting a tone. Or in setting up the basic details. They're so afraid of spoonfeeding the reader that the basics are pushed off. And they're so worried about plot, their tone is out of whack.
    Here's some things I think of when trying to incorporate detail
    * Does the reader need to know this now?
    * How can I state this and have it create a tone
    * Am I using concrete nouns and active verbs
    * Visually, on the computer, is this paragraph too much
    * Is this necessary or least interesting
     

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