I read an article recently that briefly explored why more novelists don’t adapt their own work to the big screen. Usually, if a novel is optioned, studios hire their own writers to write the screenplay. The article basically concluded that the reason why more novelists don’t adapt their own work into screenplays is because they suck at it.
Seeing as how I am someone who wants to write screenplays and other works, such as short stories, poetry, and novels, I did some soul-searching. I asked myself what it is about each of these art forms that appeals to me. These are some of my thoughts:
Screenwriting: Screenplays tell you how a story is going to look. A screenplay is not a finished product, but it is the backbone and the heart of the finished product. No amount of special effects or star power can prop up a limp script (at least not for the discerning viewer). The fun part about writing a screenplay is that you’re starting a story that you get to one day pass off to someone else. These other people will bring your story to life in a way that is unique to screenplays. The screenwriter is the foundation for an experience that, hopefully, thousands of people will get to enjoy.
Short stories: Short stories appeal to me for many of the same reasons that screenplays do. I like getting in there, telling the story, and getting out. I don’t like pages of setting and thoughts and gibble gabble. Although the cliché is that “life is short,” it’s actually quite long – and often boring. The exciting parts are short snippets of drama and action. These are the moments that I always hope to capture in a short story or a screenplay. Short stories may not be as popular as novels, but they are much more interesting in my opinion.
Poetry: Poetry for me bridges the gap between short stories and novels, but contains many of my favorite aspects of screenwriting. Poetry is all about word choice. The goal is to create a visual image which evokes a feeling. We are not trying to overly explain something when we write a poem. We are trying to drop a picture-bomb with words, and then give the readers space to sort it out for themselves. We are trying to tickle the ear as well as stimulate the mind and the emotions. Poetry celebrates language in a way no other art form does.
Novels: I have never written a novel, but I love to read them. I like literary fiction and science fiction the most, but I will read anything that is beautifully written and has something important to say. I have passed on novels that seemed (from the jacket cover) to have an interesting story to tell – if the telling of the story was ugly and plain. Plain is for screenplays. When I read a novel, I want it to massage my brain. I want to connect with the characters and with the author through language – beautiful, carefully chosen language. Words matter!
Writing this piece has helped me plan my next projects. One is a screenplay. The other one was going to be a novel. However, I’ve changed my mind. Rather than writing a novel, the other piece will be a series of interconnected short stories. I’ve never done that before and I think it would be incredibly satisfying.
Wish me luck!
Have a great week,