Writing: the silver screen dream

Raise your hand if you’ve never dreamt about your story (whether finished or in-progress) becoming a movie. Some keep it forever, some abandon it sooner or later. In today’s post, I’ll share my thoughts on this dream.

As I looked back on my writing journey (parts one, two, three, four), I realized I actually thought about how my story (well, the full-of-holes early concept) would look as a movie way before I even considered writing it.

In a twist, I abandoned that dream before I even started writing the story. And I thought the reasons why I did so might make a collection of reasons both for and against this hope (or, the actual result of it – the movie itself).

What I came to realize is that books and movies have a slightly different focus: not only can a book give more space to your imagination but a well-written book can (in my opinion) spark emotions way better. On the other hand, movies rely on strong visuals and possbly sounds (hello, T-rex roar from Jurrasic Park, Michael Bay’s explosions, and James Cameron’s glowing forest from Avatar).

Likewise, I believe most of the popular lines from movies are on the shorter end (Arnie’s “I’ll be back!” and “Hasta la vista, baby!” from Terminator series are both very simple and very powerful lines) rather than long speeches.

The approach to storytelling thus differs: each scene in a movie needs to be much stronger – there’s much less space for backstory. This leads to issues when it comes to books on the longer end of the spectrum (500+ pages) where several minor scenes are omitted – which can sometimes drag down the whole movie (the Eragon and Mortal Instruments movies both failed due to major cuts and adjustments to fit movie narrative and length constrains).

Longer series with a promise of financial stability can go risky and split a book into several movies (Harry Potter and Deathly Hollows into two, Hobbit into three) but that’s no guarantee of avoiding major cuts or edits, as HP7 part 2 had shown.

All those aspects led to the fact I eventually realized my concept was poorly fit for eventual movie – to the point I’d probably be like “hell no” if I got the chance when I am done writing it. Yes, the fact I am writing fantasy on the longer end of the spectrum and the Eragon failure are a significant part of my current opinion.

Yet, compared to early 2000s or even early 2010s, the situation today is different. Services like Netflix led to a new influx in TV series, which were shown to be working for longer stories and stories with a lot of detail (hello, Game of Thrones). However, the longer run time means a story needs much stronger promise of income to have a potential for series, compared to a standalone movie.

A series might also need a strong opening (the first episode can make or break it) and a pacing that’d fit: if each season would have significantly different length, it could be chaotic.

What I meant to say by the abovementioned is that it’s not easy to turn a book into a movie/series and the process might require severe compromises – to the point the writer might not like them. And even though it’d be the movie studio to bear the financial risk, I believe the author would not be pleased by a movie/series with a poor opinion based on their work.

Well, to be honest, most of writers won’t need to ever worry by this. Yet, it’s nice to dream, right? If you think so, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Have you ever wondered how would your story look as a movie? Who would be a good fit to play a specific character? Or find the notion outright scary?

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