Do you find yourself thinking that the books you read would be good on film? Do you wish the things you watched on TV or in the movies were available as book?
Some really can’t be converted, of course, but some definitely can (and it’s not always the ones you think will work). There’s something to be said for different forms of media, but a good story is universal … or is it?
I have a pretty cinematic imagination, so I often ‘see’ the events of a novel in my mind’s eye as a film. As Stephen King says in About Writing, writing is a form of telepathy, transmitting images into people’s brains.
But at the end of the day, novels and films are two very different mediums. A novel can afford better access to the internal lives of its characters, and it doesn’t have a budget—it’s the whole reason George R. R. Martin wrote A Game of Thrones as a book instead of for the screen, since he was fed up with budgetary constraints. (It must feel really weird adapting it for the screen.) I don’t wish things I watched on television or saw as films were available as books, unless you mean having the shooting script available, which can be invaluable. They’re two different things; the very act of adaptation necessarily changes the original story, even for the most faithful adaptation.
Ever read a book you thought you could have written better yourself?
Oh, yeah. I don’t want to name names (awkward), but there are plenty of books I’ve read with confused, awkward plot structure, problematic depictions of, well, anyone, and a generally boring writing style, among other, enormous flaws. It’s not that I think I’m a better writer, but that the books in question are that bad. I attended a lecture recently where the speaker mentioned that we often assume that a published book is good; I shook my head, because I know that’s not true. Stephen King says that be to a writer, one needs to read, and this is part of that, being able to identify elements that don’t work in other texts so you can avoid them in your own. And the reverse, of course, is true—being able to identify elements that work so you can experiment with them.
The news has been horrifying and addictive this week, with catastrophe piled on catastrophe, to a degree that–if I had read this in a book or seen it in a movie–I’d be protesting that it was just too unlikely, too farfetched.
But topics for novels get ripped from the headlines all the time. Or real-life events remind you of fiction (whether “believable” or not) that you’ve read but never expected to see. Or real life comes up with an event so unbelievable that it stretches your sense of reality.
Hmm … I can’t quite come up with an outright question to ask, but thinking about the theory of fiction and how it can affect and be affected by real world events can act as a buffer between the horrific events on the news and having to actually face that horror. So … what happens when the line between fiction and reality becomes all-too slim? Discuss!
I’ll respond to this query with a quote from Stephen King’s Misery.
In a book, all would have gone according to plan… but life was so fucking untidy—what could you say for an existence where some of the most crucial conversations of your life took place when you needed to take a shit, or something? An existence where there weren’t even any chapters? (297)
Fiction is made up of the same stuff as life—yes, even speculative fiction, naysayers. Even the most farfetched fictional plot has some grounding in reality. Readers feel cheated when fiction mimics the chaos of life; you just have to look at the reaction to the end of Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper to see that. No matter how porous the line seems to be in terms of content (and it’s supposed to be porous), fiction is, ultimately, organized.
- King, Stephen. Misery. New York: Viking, 1987. Print.
The discovery that Robin McKinley’s Pegasus was the first half of a novel floored me; yes, I thought the ending was abrupt, but the idea that Robin McKinley, a much loved author who could probably get away with publishing a hearty, predator-repulsing tome, found the “freller too fricking long” to the point that she thought it better to hack a novel in half (her word! Not mine!) kind of threw me for a loop. (To be fair, Ms. McKinley does have deadlines to reach.) In fact, she describes Pegasus’s eventual sequel to be analogous to the way The Return of the King is the sequel to The Two Towers, which is to say not a sequel at all, but the rest of the story. It’s almost as infuriating as the term “literary fiction” to be quite honest. As the very wise Brian Cronin puts it, “serialized fiction is judged – as a whole, yes, but also as each part individually”. This sort of amputation has been running wild through speculative fiction recently–so much so, in fact, that it’s time I stopped complaining and listened–does this sort of thing suggest that some authors ought to go in for serialized novels instead of traditional ones?
(To preface, I am not talking about publishers deciding to separate out a novel, such as the overseas publications of some of the novels in A Song of Fire and Ice and The Lord of the Rings, which, if you’ve been paying attention, is a single novel. I’m talking about authors making that decision for themselves.)
I’ve seen many bloggers say that what draws them to certain books or authors is good writing, and what causes them to stop reading a certain book or author is bad writing. What constitutes good writing and bad writing to you?
Wow, that’s quite a broad topic! Let’s see if I can’t boil it down in a few minutes…
The first thing that leaps to mind when I think about good writing is the eye for detail that Michael Chabon exemplifies–but there’s also things like plot structure, banter, and character development. When I think about bad writing, I think about authors who fail at those things–splitting a whole plot in half for no reason, tinny banter, and caricatured characters. Obviously, they’re different sides of the same coin. Good writing serves the story, which isn’t to say it serves the plot–according to Stephen King, the two are different (although I don’t agree with his dourness on the subject of plots). Bad writing detracts from the story.
1. Favorite childhood book?
A tie between Good Omens and The Count of Monte Cristo. (And by childhood, you meant awkward preteen years, right?)
2. What are you reading right now?
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.
3. What books do you have on request at the library?
None at the moment, as I’m about to move back to college and need to deal with a different library.
4. Bad book habit?
Eating messy foods while reading library books.
5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
Stephen King’s Misery and a VHS of Disney’s The Three Musketeers.
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
- BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
“Please… my legs… very painful…”
“I knew she would marry Ian,” she said, smiling dreamily, “and I believe Geoffrey and Ian will become friends again, eventually.”
pg. 17 of Misery by Stephen King.
PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your 2 ‘teasers’ in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks!
On Writing by Stephen King
I’ve heard of On Writing off and on throughout my life. I remember a sign in my eighth grade English class that declared one of its main tenets- if you want to write, you’d better read. A lot. As you might imagine, it had quite an effect on a voracious reader like myself.
I’ve always kept personal notes in different ways over the years. When I was a wee lass (here defined as that unfortunate period called middle school), I always wrote with a good, old Bic mechanical pencil in the various notebooks I kept. I refused to write on the backs of the notebook pages, which was quite a waste of space. In these notebooks, I wrote my stories, such as they were, neatly marked in the margins what story it was. I couldn’t bring myself to write something in a notebook that was meant for fiction or something. I did not keep personal notes at all.
As you may have heard, Barnes & Noble rolled out their foray into the digital reader market on Tuesday– the Nook. It boasts the ability to lend purchased e-books to friends and family, a display meant to mimic a traditional book, and being able to purchase and download books in seconds. It’s meant to compete with the Amazon Kindle. Both are priced at $259, with most book titles running a consumer $9.99 a pop. Digital readers are causing massive waves in publishing at the moment.
I don’t like digital readers.