1. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    Writing a movie in novel form

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by stubeard, Aug 27, 2010.

    I should start off by saying I mostly write action-adventure novels - 80k words plus.

    One of my guiding principles has always been: don't do anything that could not be tranferred to screen. This is not because I want my story to one day be a movie, but it stops me from telling too much to the audience. And I don't mean picturing scenes before I write them, I literally mean doing nothing that can't be shown.

    For example, rather than telling what a character is like, I will try and construct a scene or a conversation that shows all the character's attributes, tendencies, etc.

    What does anyone think are the disadvantages of this approach? And I'm looking for personal opinions as much as technical opinions.

    P.S. I should add - I have recently been made aware of the re-read. When writing in movie form it can sometimes take a bit longer to introduce characters, which I like, as it gives a better chance for people to get to know a character in their natural habitat, rather than just being told what they're like. However, during the re-read, the reader will know the characters and want to get right into the action.
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Whilst I am not expecting it to happen, I do consider my book on screen. I tend to imagine it as a Ghilbli style animation, I think it helps my descriptions and dialogue work somehow. Only disadvantage might be if it was a full blown movie in my head, the descriptions may be a bit flat. The Ghilbli style in my head is a good compromise and works well, I am rarely let down by the page description

    I have also in the past week had an idea for a TV series based on two of my characters, I am putting together the idea for a screen play.

    I have developed a newsreel style for when my character is giving information because it is first person the movie in his head rather than mine:)
     
  3. Unsavory
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    Unsavory Active Member

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    Regardless of how you got there, showing instead of telling is a great principle for any writer, and that's exactly what you're describing so I think that's a great advantage. The only problem here is that if you always show instead of tell you are more likely to run into pacing issues since telling is usually quicker than showing.

    Another problem I see is that if you follow this principle too precisely, you can never tell the reader what any of the characters are thinking which is one of the advantages the written word has over film. Still, that may work fine for you.
     
  4. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    Yeah that's kinda my intention - let the reader work it out from how the character is acting - that way they can relate more to her/him.

    And, yeah, pacing issues are always the biggest problem I have. I can't tell you the amount of times I've re-read some of my work and been bored myself!!! :p
     
  5. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Your method sounds good. But describing an action like a movie can sometimes be bad writing. I think Cogito has a blog post on that topic, may be one of his signature links.

    P.S. Nice avatar Elglaisma :)
     
  6. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree. I tend to write in a mixture of styles to what you describe and what the OP describes. I imagine my story playing out like a movie(complete with actors and actresses in the roles, lame I know), while still paying close attention to character development and personal thoughts. So I kind of try to mix the two.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Movies are not novels, and novels are not movies. They are two entirely different media, with differing strengths and weaknesses. Your writing should take advantage of the strengths of the medium you are writing for.

    Film is a short time span medium, so it has to take liberties with exposition that are generally unforgivable in a novel. Film is two dimensional, so things can take place in the background and move to the foreground in ways that to not work in a serial medium like a novel. Movies use sound and lighting to convey mood and modulate tension, and that is simply not available in a novel.

    On the other hand, a novel can emphasize the unseen, that actors have to emote, or that require cheesy voiceovers in movies. Pacing, instead of being telegraphed by a swell in orchestration, is conveyed by verying sentence structure and depth f description.

    Know your medium, and utilize its unique properties.
     
  8. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^^^I don't think anyone is saying that each are the same thing. They may be different mediums but they do share the common starting point, vision. If one is mindful of the differences and mindful of what medium you're creating, I believe the visions of both mediums can be of great benefit to the visions of the other.
     
  9. JessaNova
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    JessaNova Senior Member

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    I have an excellent idea.
    Have you read 'Monster' from Walter Dean Myers? It kind of tells the story like how it would be expressed as a script. Maybe read it and see if that gives you any ideas.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry Show, but this was in the thread starter post:
    That is why I made the point I did. They ARE two very different media, and that affects story development from very early on.
     
  11. JessaNova
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    JessaNova Senior Member

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    I think the basis of all this should not be you can't write a novel like a movie, but to create a novel so moving and inspirational people will want it to be turned into a movie. I think this is all silly how the person is actually concerned with it not being 'movie' material. Shouldn't you focus on a good quality novel before your ego takes over and thinks your book is good enough to be carried over to feature film?
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Right. There is a reason a movie based on a book is called an adaptation. There's a lot of work required to transform a novel into a movie. As we all know, the results are usually disappointing.
     
  13. JessaNova
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    JessaNova Senior Member

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    There are very few movies that I've seen that were as satisfying as the book. Even as long and elaborate as Harry Potter was -- it still didn't do the book justice! I don't think any length or detail in the movie could've made that happen.

    Just goes to show...
     
  14. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    If you will read the original post, I said it's nothing to do with it being adapted into a movie. I said it was a guiding principle to stop me telling too much.

    Cog - I accept that movies and books are different. Life would be a whole lot more boring it they weren't! But what would be the drawbacks of writing a book entirely with a passive and objective narrator, like there is in a movie?

    I keep hearing things like: "[one] can never tell the reader what any of the characters are thinking" but why can't one just use situations to show how a character is thinking? Surely that would be a better way?

    If character is nervous, have him shuffling around on his feet. If a character is cynical about a situation, have her rolling her eyes...that kind of thing.

    I'd be interested to see if anyone could come up with a feeling that couldn't be communicated via a situation.

    P.S. I'm not saying all novels should be written like this. For example, I'd miss first-person narratives.
     
  15. Cecil
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    Cecil Member

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    You are depriving your work of layers and layers of depth if you limit character expression solely to physical actions. Not to mention the fact that if you only write things that can be seen, you're book looses one of the advantages that books have over movies.

    Part of the reason movies go through such pains of lighting, music, and subtle acting is because they can't show thoughts. If you don't show thoughts in your book, then you are basically writing a movie, but you don't have the advantage of actors, music, or lighting to give your characters depth.

    So then you have a problem: why would someone want to read your book instead of watching a movie, when your book is basically an inferior (if longer) version of a movie? I guess you have a limitless special effects budget, but your books will never be as good as they could be if you don't take full advantage of the powers of your medium. If you don't like the novel medium, then maybe you should take up a different one that works better for you.

    Bear in mind, this is only if you are interested in publishing or establishing an audience. If you're really only writing for personal reasons then you should do whatever you want.
     
  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think if the method is working and it is producing a good story then do it. Go for it see if you can make it work. There is nothing wrong with experimenting and finding the best way your story fits. Just go for it, if writers don't experiment then we would never move forward with literature. If I had listened to people intially I would never have embarked on my current project. I don't know if it will be published but I do know I have people enjoy reading it and its a good story. Still has work needing doing but the first person present tense is part of what makes it gripping and works. Using the passive voice in places allows me to provide a newsreel inside the persons head, not everyone gets it but most reading it seem to. I am borrowing some of Grassic Gibbon's experimental punctuation etc

    If something isn't working you just need to go back and rewrite and how many times does a book get rewritten before its right anyway:)

    Because I am considering writing a screen play/tv series idea alongside my books, I have been considering how to adapt it for screen it has been interesting to see the changes in the books as a result of the thoughts I am having. Actually think it is adding a deeper tone to my work, the dialogue has improved etc

    Do I think my idea will appear on screen no idea, however I would love to create and write for something as enduring as Dr Who or Last of the Summer Wine.
     
  17. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I see. ;) Missed a part of that post. But still, the OP seems to be focusing on showing, just to a degree that might be taking it a bit too far. Looking at their post even closer, it really isn't even about movies verses novels at all as much as it is an extreme view of "showing instead of telling." Hence the differences in medium kind of takes a back seat to telling not ALWAYS being the enemy. One could arrive at the same conclusion as the OP it seems without the movie bits added. So I think we all know that movies and novels are different, the OP included. The main idea seems to be the classic "showing versus telling" debate, with the method to writing be avoiding telling altogether.

    Going by the OP's later posts, I do see his point. Although I feel there can be some telling in the story without it decreasing the quality of the novel. I would advise against adhering to any tactic so rigidly that you never allow yourself to break from it, so I think telling can be a good thing sometimes. But I do see their point and I don't really see it relating much to movies being different from books as much as taking a strict approach to showing rather than telling.
     
  18. missupernatural
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    missupernatural Member

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    I think the advantage of picturing your novel as a movie is that it allows you to test what works, particularly avoiding problems in the dialogue between your characters.

    That said, a novel allows depth which a movie can't really achieve.
     
  19. white
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    white Banned

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    I don't know about that. It really is up to the vision of the director. Like the subtle use of color to create a mood. One movie that comes to mind is Traffic where the scenes in Mexico are usually yellow/orange and warm, and the scenes with the D.C. character (Michael Douglas) or his daughter are sometimes completely blue.
     
  20. missupernatural
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    missupernatural Member

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    Sorry, I generalised a bit too much there.

    I totally agree. Some films use visual elements to add to the story and our understanding of it. But on the whole, a lot don't.

    I work in a DVD store and it's quite disheartening to see the amount of cliche crap that Hollywood pumps out.
     
  21. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    I started writing what I call "visually". Everything that was written could've been translated into a movie. Essentially, I was translating into written text what I imagined as a movie, so everything came out in that visual style.

    It wasn't until many years later, when I started asking myself about the raison d'ĂȘtre of written stories that I decided I was losing precisely what made me read. A purely visual written story would never be as good for me as the same story made into movie.

    I now use that tool available to fiction writers and not script writers.

    Telling is not always bad, it allows the writer to give information much faster. Used inbetween showed movie-friendly sequences, it allows the creation of deeper, more complex, stories.


    Now my inner fight is no longer about telling or not; it's about keeping the visual writing and telling fragments completely separated, or mixing them up.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if you want to sell a novel, write it like a novel... movies are not made from novels that are written like movie scripts, but from good novels telling stories that will make good movies... seasoned screenwriters have no trouble turning a novel into a script...

    the approach/method you're describing does not sound like it will result in good, well-written novels...
     
  23. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mm, yeah... This sounds very dubious to me. Something I wouldn't do more than play with as a writing exercise, to be honest. I'm very much into emotional exploration in my stories - plots are very much second to characters, since they come from the characters, and since to write good characters you have to be inside and out of them, that involves a lot of "telling" what they're thinking. Really, though, it's just showing what's in their head, just that since it doesn't come as an action it isn't seen as showing in the sense of blasting the reader with action. I am firmly in the belief that mental action is just as interesting. :p
     
  24. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    Hey, Stubeard.

    I don't think this approach is right or wrong. I tend to keep a movie-censor state of mind while coming up with my own ideas as well. It does help you to keep things at a bare minimum and not include extraneous details.
     
  25. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm surprised at the negative responses to the original post... the OP is not saying that he writes a novel just like a movie script, only that he visualises everything he puts down on the page.

    But I'm most surprised at the claim that you need to spell out a character's thoughts to describe their state of mind. Really, what a character is thinking can be apparent from their actions, their wordings, their body language, everything. It's harder to describe their state of mind indirectly, but in my opinion, it makes the characters feel more three-dimensional.
     
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