Movie of the book, or book of the movie?

When I went to a Writers Group between 2015 and 2018 quite often some of the members would remark, after I had read out my piece for the meeting, that they could easily envisage the scene or story in their minds, like watching a film. These comments have stayed with me and I have found that I too see the scenes as played out in my head before I write them down. Not always days before, or even a day earlier, or even ten minutes before; most times I see them as I write them down, as if I am in another parallel universe or watching a movie somewhere. Often I will make the effort to go out to a coffee house to write even if the weather is lousy just so I can find out what is going to happen next – I have nothing planned so have little idea of how a chapter is going to work out or conclude. I need to go and ‘see it’.

I’m wondering now if I should try and rewrite one of my books as a screenplay? Maybe that’s where my stories would be happiest and best developed. There are lots of online courses about screenplay writing or scriptwriting and many books. The writing program I use, Scrivener, has a setting for screenplays. Perhaps I am a frustrated movie director rather than a writer. I certainly see the ‘action’, and find the filling in of the background details rather a drag. Researching can be fun, and I have discovered many fascinating blogs and websites along the way, but it can slow down my writing and editing. I’m guessing in screenplays the writer concentrates on the dialog rather than all the detail of streets, and rooms, and clothing, etc.

I am reading a book at present by Paul Theroux, the respected travel writer, all about the Deep South in USA, and in one of his ‘Interludes’ he was discussing the writer William Faulkner. He apparently wrote in very complicated prose, in one case writing one sentence of six thousand (yes, 6000!!) words. Yet he also earned a lot of money writing scripts for Hollywood, including The Big Sleep. So maybe some writers can combine two styles. Although I am not comparing myself to Faulkner, my writing style before I began to write these books was much more concentrated and deep and complicated. Sentences would often be quite long with many commas. I consciously tried to ape a poetic style just to be different and break up what I thought was my former boring prose. Certainly I look back to my early writing and marvel at its structure. My writing now is much more like an episode from Starsky and Hutch or Kojak or some other 1970s cop drama, maybe with a hint of CSI thrown in.

So maybe it’s a case of ‘Goodbye, The Times Bestseller List’, and ‘Hello, Hollywood’!

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