Why write, when there is film?

msstice

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Following some rabbit holes on the web, starting from a discussion in another thread about not using cliched physical reactions to emotions, I ended up on the word "interiority" and the differentiating feature of print over film. Some of the discussion emphasizes that only print can allow you to take your audience into a character's mind, because you can describe their thoughts, feelings and deep and complicated motivations and that is what writing should emphasize, because otherwise your readers would just go watch a film.

I found this discussion conflicts with the show vs tell guideline _and_ it's not a compelling differentiator to film.

1. To describe inner motivations and feeling is telling. It's an inner description.
2. In film and plays you can have monologues, you can have narration, you can have a voice over for thoughts, flashbacks for motivation etc.

One aspect where I do believe print can be superior to film is that print is a participatory process where we fill in details given the limited information given to us. This can make it richer and more interesting to read rather than watch.

However, carefully made film can also have this element of the viewer filling in things, but this is not seen so much in commercial films.

One major aspect of writing I find extremely powerful is that it still is a medium where a person with no resources other than their minds can create something that millions of other people can share in. Movies require more expensive outlay, though perhaps animation does not, nowadays.

I wonder what other people think about this? If you think about your work in progress, do you find yourself worrying do I have things in here than can only be explored in print?
 

tinkerdan

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This is a common misconception about show and tell.
1. To describe inner motivations and feeling is telling. It's an inner description.
Show really is not about that raw emotion because even when you include body language with the emoting it is all still tell.
The show is everything that validates the reason for that emotion for that reaction. The motive behind it all.
Describing those inner feelings is nothing without the source without some context. That's what you have to show.

For example:

Fred grew up in a home where dad would get drunk and come home and beat mom--until he was older he could do nothing about it. By the time he could, his dad was gone; however this stuck with Fred and because of it he vowed never to hit anyone else like that.

Fast forward.
They had had many fights but this time something incensed him beyond his usual reserve and before he knew it his arm swung almost of its own volition and he barely stopped in time. Mary looked horrified. Fred's heart thumped and his nerves unraveled while a darkness within expanded to an infinite emptiness as he suddenly clenched his hand to his chest nearly collapsing to the floor, his breath came in short shallow burst and even his tears were restricted coming out like dry heaves. He remained speechless for a long time, because even though he thought he could claim she pushed him and it wasn't his fault and he was sorry, if he did he would be no better than his father.

The showing was the backstory that gave the source or setup for what was going to happen and the response.

The test is when he gets angry and almost losses control and then breaks down the reader shouldn't have to ask why, because that was already shown earlier in the story somewhere.
 

DLCroix

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I wonder what other people think about this? If you think about your work in progress, do you find yourself worrying do I have things in here than can only be explored in print?
Darling, you basically just need to do what makes you happy. Because here there is also a question of the market that many do not see, currently there is a serious crisis of scriptwriters that has even forced the closure of television channels such as some sci-fi to favor more bottle-type programming; then, the market (which is not new) takes over the cultural exchange of our society to expose its own vision of things, obviously the one that suits them. Therefore, the rush is such that they do not even have time to adapt novels; the ideal thing for them is that you give them the script ready to execute. Therefore, and looking to the future, they are organizing a whole trend in which the direct aspect of showing is being privileged to the detriment of telling. But literature doesn't really interest them in the least; they profess an audiovisual religion and want to impose it at any cost because they do not want to face the same problem in the future.
On the other hand, effectively the discussion has deviated so that the general opinion is the one that favors their interests. That is, show; do not narrate. But only a few realize, still, that this is not so; it works for some things and not for others. Because there is no formula.
Furthermore, many mainstream authors are not interested in being literary either; what they want is for their novels to be actually scripts disguised with the aim of getting them on screen as soon as possible. They are not interested in writing literature, what they want is to grab the next franchise of the new Harry Potter or the new GOT, and the bad thing is that they have convinced themselves to such an extent that this is the way to go that they defend it to the cape and sword in congresses and literary conventions, and even they deploy theory about it to attract the largest possible number of parishioners of their new religion. They are no longer writers; they are hucksters eager to get a contract with a film production company.
Netflix, in fact, was the main culprit for the scriptwriters crisis: before, HBO made you wait a week to see the next episode; Netflix puts you on the grill the entire season. This has produced a demand for scripts that the market has been unable to satisfy for five years or so.
So, if things have to be as they want, we better not write novels, let's immediately start writing the scripts without caring about the development or descriptions and perhaps the use of language, forget about internal psychology, thoughts, stylistic flight (Does anyone remember that there was a time when we were passionate about discussing form and substance, style?) since everything that cannot be shown on screen does not work.
And do you know what I say to them?
Well, let them go to the m ...
I'm going to write literature, copon.
 
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--> Why write, when there is film?

Good question, since the public's entertainment habits are increasingly shifting to visual media (eg, film, tv, apps, video games).

Writers make a lot more from selling film rights than they do even from a bestselling novel. So if you want to be rich, switch to screenplays right now, or at least tailor your book toward selling the film rights.

Still, one can achieve more in a novel than a movie in certain respects --

* Impart more precise information on what characters think and feel
* Impart much more information overall -- since films clock in a far fewer words than many novels (and images don't always cover the gap)
* Engage the reader's imagination in a way that films usually do not
* Challenge the reader to mentally participate in the story, rather than be a passive consumer

A century ago, Americans read poetry in large numbers. Today, from a commercial standpoint, poetry is dead.

I fear the same fate is befalling the literary novel. In fact, many literary novels are now disguised as genre as even the best writers must increasingly compete in an entertainment-driven world.

I wrote my novel because I don't care about any of this. If it doesn't make money, fine. If it's not popular, fine. My goal is simply to get it into the hands of those who will value it. I believe such readers exist, and I want to connect with them.
 

sknox

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This sounds to me a bit like saying why do painting when there is sculpture (choose any two art forms you like). Each is its own thing.

I for one scoff at the phrase: a picture is worth a thousand words. *Some* pictures are worth at least that many, or more. Other pictures are scarcely worth a clause. Some words can never be rendered properly as an image ... or a song or a dance or a building.

I don't worry about whether I write things that can only be done in print. While writing, I worry first about whether what I'm saying makes sense. I then worry that my words do justice to the characters and to the moment. After that, I mostly worry about spelling errors and whether anyone will like what I wrote.
 

Extollager

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Not quite to the point but: I could go the rest of my life without seeing any movies and not feel miserable about it. No movie has ever meant to me what my favorite books mean.
 

.matthew.

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I for one scoff at the phrase: a picture is worth a thousand words.
oreally.jpg

Sometimes they don't even manage to spell a single one correctly.

But seriously, all forms of media are valid to someone, that's why they exist in the first place.

A book is also the product of either an individual or a very small group that could include a co-writer and editor etc. This means that they generally have a more coherent structure and idea of what they are. A film, on the other hand, has gone through half a dozen screenwriters, executives with 'ideas', the actors trying to impart their own take on them, and the director screaming for everyone to do it their way. Movies also cost so much money that they are driven by a requirement to appeal to as many people as possible, while books aren't... as much.

Books also last a lot longer and you can read them in blissful silence.

Nobody mention subtitles, okay :)
 

Guttersnipe

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Fiction engages the imagination. No two people will perceive a written story the same way. Movies only cover the auditory and visual aspects of the story and leaves little to be imagined. As for documentaries vs. nonfiction--that's probably a horse apiece.
 

Extollager

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Certainly cinema is an artistically legitimate form. Movies such as Throne of Blood do something very well that could only be done in that form; hence the form is forever legitimized. One great work is all it takes to legitimize the form even if every other movie was garbage.

But none of the movies I admire means as much to me as some of the books that mean the most to me. I think that the tendency of movies, if an artistic form can have an inherent tendency, is towards becoming something that the audience receives passively. What movies stir the "whole person" the way a great book can stir him or her?
 

AnyaKimlin

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If we don't write were are the scripts and the ideas for the films coming from?

My most prominent WIP over the next six months will be a paranormal story drama script.
 
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Elckerlyc

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The two media are so different; I wouldn't be so bold as to claim movies make writing something of the past (well, except for script-writing of course - movie-making starts with writing!)
Anyone can write and (theoretically) write a novel. It needs only 1 determined person. But the result can potentially absorb the mind of millions while reading it. And each of those millions creature their own mental image of what they are reading. A book cost me about as much as it will cost me to go watch a movie of the book, which is the same writing but presented in the fixed visualization of another person. Unless the producer is prepared to make a lengthy movie with the risk of people walking away, the movie runs the risk of being superfluous, at least compared to the book. But it may depend on the genre. An action movie could be more interesting as a novel. And many movies nowadays lean towards an overly action-style fashion. Just look at the beginning of Ready Player One, the big (backwards) race, which so completely and disappointingly diverging from the book.

I prefer reading vastly over watching a movie. It keeps me busy in a way movies don't. Also, a movie is about 1.5 - 2hours in length, a book can last me days. It engages me in a more profound way movies possibly could. Unfortunately, (immersed) reading seems a lost ability among the younger generation, too lazy, impatient or distracted by an overload of signals via social media. Movies are made to hold the attention of those youngsters. Which makes reading imho all the more indispensable and incomparable to movies.
 

Steve Harrison

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My two published novels were based on unsold feature screenplays and although the difference between writing scripts and novels is enormous, they both result in movies; one on the screen, the other in the reader's head. That's why I am always amazed when a book adaptation looks nothing like I imagined it.

I prefer reading and writing novels, as I find them more immersive overall, particularly writing, as I have 100% control. A script is basically only a blueprint for a movie, so once producers, directors and other filmmakers get hold of the screenplay, the film may be totally different from your work.

I have c0-written and produced a few short films and it's amazing how much good actors can bring to a work, conveying thoughts and motivations with a look or gesture, providing an immediacy quite different to a written story.

Apologies for rambling on. I find both art forms fascinating.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I can think of several movies that moved me as deeply as my favorite books have—but every single one of those movies was one I saw when I was younger. I suspect that were I to see them now I would be disappointed (in some cases I have seen them again fairly recently and they were a disappointment, so I don't even have to guess). Part of it is that I was more easily touched when I was young (books, movies, TV shows would have me weeping with sorrow or joy). Part of it that books (at least the best books), I find, tend to stand the test of time better. I think it is because books have more layers to them and reading them at different ages one may react to different parts of them and in different ways. The story, one might say, grows up along with the reader.

These days when I watch a movie, I usually respond more to the visuals—the costumes, cinematography, sets—then to things like the plot and characterization. They are, almost literally, "moving pictures." I wonder if it is me—am I missing something?—or is it that movies that are made now concentrate more on the production values than they do on the script?

But if a "moving picture" is done well enough, I can enjoy it as much as a wonderful painting. Just not as much as a book or a ballet or a piece of music. I know, however, that is a matter of personal taste. The others provide more of what I personally respond to than the movies do.
 

msstice

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@Teresa Edgerton the part about books being more durable than movies is insightful.

I think a key aspect is the filling in bit. In both books and movies, if you can get the audience to fill in details/emotions, you can get a pretty powerful result. It takes imagination from the audience and so it has to be pitched right. Show enough of the monster to trigger the fears but don't show too much. Show a hint of the emotion between characters, and we'll fill the rest in. But it has to be relatable, so if it's something completely alien, it has to be spelt out more. That is were the art comes in.

In movies, I respond to the sincerity of the actors much much more than how much money the director had. I will put up with crappy sets, crappy costumes, even a crappy plot if the actors convince me. Then I'm like, yeah, Captain Kirk, I know that's some guy in a rubber suit, and the set is obviously a set, but I see Kirk looks genuinely frightened, or angry, or happy, and so I respond.

In writing I think there is something similar. When we detect sincere writing - the writer really feels this, or sees this in their head, or as internalized these characters, knows them even - we respond to this too.
 

Hyba

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Following some rabbit holes on the web, starting from a discussion in another thread about not using cliched physical reactions to emotions, I ended up on the word "interiority" and the differentiating feature of print over film. Some of the discussion emphasizes that only print can allow you to take your audience into a character's mind, because you can describe their thoughts, feelings and deep and complicated motivations and that is what writing should emphasize, because otherwise your readers would just go watch a film.

I found this discussion conflicts with the show vs tell guideline _and_ it's not a compelling differentiator to film.

1. To describe inner motivations and feeling is telling. It's an inner description.
2. In film and plays you can have monologues, you can have narration, you can have a voice over for thoughts, flashbacks for motivation etc.

One aspect where I do believe print can be superior to film is that print is a participatory process where we fill in details given the limited information given to us. This can make it richer and more interesting to read rather than watch.

However, carefully made film can also have this element of the viewer filling in things, but this is not seen so much in commercial films.

One major aspect of writing I find extremely powerful is that it still is a medium where a person with no resources other than their minds can create something that millions of other people can share in. Movies require more expensive outlay, though perhaps animation does not, nowadays.

I wonder what other people think about this? If you think about your work in progress, do you find yourself worrying do I have things in here than can only be explored in print?
Hmm... Well, I agree with your points to start.

I also think that in many ways, today films are very much give-the-audience-everything-on-a-silver-platter, if that makes any sense, and commercial/mainstream movies in particular. There's not much thinking required to watch all the blockbusters that hit the box office, and it's all very passive. I can watch movies coming out today and guess who the villain is before the protagonists or movie reveal them, making the reveal very anti-climactic. I remember feeling particularly disappointed with the Wonder Woman movie that everyone was raving about because I had the villain spotted from their first moment on-screen (and I've never consumed any WW content before, if that is of any importance). And that's not the only movie where I've had to deal with that disappointment! I think there's something about knowing, as an actor, that your character is the villain, that makes a lot of actors give it away from the very beginning - whether that's in their facial expressions, their eyes, their speech tones, etc. I think it takes a very good actor to keep the audience's suspicions at bay, or at least a good bit of misdirection with an interesting cast of characters.

We don't often have this issue with well-written books. Take a good murder mystery, for example. Because we can only be given limited information from our limited perspective into the story, it's very hard to peg a character as the murderer before at least halfway through the novel (and hopefully even longer). Also, the lack of visuals like we have in films takes away a large part of body language or other signals that we as humans are receptive to, making it trickier.

I read an opinion article on the Harvard Crimson called "Watching, Not Reading" where the author discussed how film, by its nature, is able to create more memorable content that can stick in your mind easier than content from a book - and their main focus was on the educational aspects of this. They mentioned how they learned more in some movies based on history than they had in books. I'd actually like to hear what anyone else thinks about this? Is it true for you?
 

Extollager

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Our visual memory is likely to be stronger than the memory of images evoked from reading, which gives movies an "advantage," if you like; but then sight is the least "intimate" of the senses. To start with, I have to have some distance from what I look at in order to be able to focus on it. At the end of an old romantic movie, it would seem weird if, as the leading lady and the leading man kiss, we saw that one or both had eyes open -- uh oh!

I can easily recall images from the Peter Jackson LOTR movies, which I have seen a few times each; less easily conjure my own impressions of scenes as read, though I have read LOTR 13 times. On the other hand, my impressions derived from the book possess a poignance that my memories of the movies lack. The impressions of the book are more intimately connected with my life experience. They have more of a sense of the depth of time than the movie does (the movie has almost none).
 

Wayne Mack

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Yes, I believe show vs. tell applies to both print and film, but the difference is one of scale in the show. Video, especially film, expresses show in large scale, often grandeur. Remember the sense of wonder in the opening of Star Wars, where the spaceship flew overhead for what seemed an eternity? Don't forget the audio, another key feature of film. In Jaws, the frightening moments were not the actual attack scenes but the preludes showing wide beaches of people having fun balanced against this audio bee-dum, bee-dum. I am not a big Bollywood fan, but I will stop and watch an intricate, fun dance sequence. I doubt any of these 'shows' could be equally replicated in written text.

In written text, the 'shows' are small scale in nature and the mood is often conveyed by how quickly or slowly the individual shows are presented. A battle scene will often only convey the perspective of a single individual one thrust, parry, and wound at a time. A tense situation will describe a series of intricate details stretched across multiple paragraphs. Neither try to describe the large scale whole of the the scene. It is simply a different form of showing than used in visual formats.

Print and film are two different presentation formats and what works well in one does not necessarily work well in the other. I feel no reason to hold one above the other. Each has some outstanding examples of story telling (and each has a tremendous amount of very average story telling). Enjoy both.
 

sknox

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>They mentioned how they learned more in some movies based on history than they had in books.
Chances are what they learned is historically misleading or outright wrong. Moreover, I submit that remembering is not the same mental activity as learning. I don't doubt they remember more from some movies than from some books. Since the basis and essence of history is inquiry (istoria, Gr.), I don't see many movies doing much actual history. They just have stories set in the past. That's fine, but it ain't history.

As an art form, though, I'm a huge fan of movies. I can draw examples of movies that, er, moved me from every decade for the last century.
 
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