Friday, January 29, 2010

novels and screenplays

The two biggest writing projects I've been gnawing on over the course of the last six years or so have been a novel and a screenplay.

The screenplay has been finished for a few years, in the sense that it reads reasonably well and goes all the way to the end of the story, and is registered with the Writer's Guild West. It is, however, in need of a good polish before I grit my teeth, hold my breath, cross my fingers, and try to sell it.

The novel... well, it's a long one. As I've stated elsewhere, it's really more like several novels in one, and it's (er, ahem) not quite finished yet.

Differences of length aside for the moment, now having spent considerable time working in both forms I find myself thinking about their similarities and differences.

As any true film person knows (or at least, suspects), a film is indeed very different than a novel. This becomes very clear when books are interpreted and produced as movies. It's clearly a very different medium with different goals and needs.

But in the course of working in both, switching from one to the other on no regular schedule, I began to realize something interesting, and am still learning it: thinking in terms of a movie, without consciously setting out to do this, is making me a better novelist.

No, I don't mean obvious things like casting an actor on the novel's page (like Mr. Brown did-- shamelessly but I suppose understandably-- in his most recent blockbuster novel). One could almost say that the changes that are needed for the screen are changes that might have been good for the book as well, the difference being that the film format makes certain... shall I call them 'deficiencies'?-- more obvious? I wonder if I'm overstating this. Does thinking in cinematic terms from the onset of writing a novel, even if one isn't necessarily interested in eventually seeing the novel as a film, give the novel a qualitative advantage?

to be continued

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