Monday 16 April 2012

Novels Of the Future

The three major forms of storytelling are books, television shows and movies. Books are the odd man out because they require active participation. You can sit back and let the story wash over you with a TV set or cinema screen. Books, you have to engage your faculties a little more actively.
While television and cinema have gone through major changes over the years as they try to take advantage of advancing technology, books have stayed more or less the same over the last 500 years.

Meanwhile TV and film have been having a battle royale as they try to outdo each other, and the kinds of stories they tell have developed accordingly. Has the novel been left behind?

There are two approaches to winning over an ever busier populace. You can provide a product that fits modern lifestyles better (access online, on demand, digital formats and cloud access). Or you can make the product so irresistible, people will take time away from their other interests to experience it (3D, IMAX, star power and media hype).

TV and films have made use of both approaches, along with plenty of eye candy. But in the end the main selling point tends to come down to what you have to offer that no one else has. Television can offer in-depth storytelling over many weeks. Film can offer the big spectacle and intensified one-off experience.

So what can the novel do that the other two can’t?

If the same story was told in all three formats, the novel could take you much deeper into the minds of the characters. What movies have been trying to do with 3D (and failing) is to make you feel like you’re inside the story. With novels you can really do that. You can make the reader feel like they’re experiencing it along with the characters. Not just visually, but through all the other senses too.

Deep POV is something neither of the other two can do. Making the reader feel like they’re in the world of the story—total sensory immersion.

Of course this isn’t easy. It’s a simple thing to just describe the hell out of everything, but that would make for a laborious and tedious read. You have to have a story worth telling and elements worthy of the full immersion.

You also have the advantage of being able to change locations to anywhere in the world (and beyond). Or pull off the most amazing special effects without incurring George Lucas size costs. Both the real and the fantastical can be an all encompassing experience for the reader.

Not that you need go crazy, but often we forget the potential of the tiny words we put on the page, and the opportunity they give us to really blow people’s minds, both in terms of imagination and emotion.
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Christine Rains said...

Fantastic post! I agree that books can take us places that films and TV can't. I'd rather read a book than watch anything any day of the week.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Which is why most books to movies are so lacking.

Crack You Whip said...

People are getting so comfortable (should I say lazy) with TV that books are slowly getting pushed away, but I always appreciate a good book more. I almost never watch TV or a movie.

Love the post BTW!

Ted Cross said...

I wanted to convince an artist to do a collaboration on my book with me and let us split any profits. He would do a series of paintings throughout the story (along with a cover, naturally). I've loved the few books that have done this, such as The Sword of Shannara or the single-volume Lord of the Rings. The artist that I wanted didn't seem interested, though. I do think this would be a way to separate oneself from the rest of the self-publishing pack.

A. K. Fotinos-Hoyer said...

It is a bit strange that novels haven't gone through the same sort of transformation to keep up with the times that film/TV has. But, I think we will be seeing innovations soon now that e-books are becoming standard - maybe integration of certain media into e-books? Packaging an e-book with music - maybe certain songs to listen to while reading each chapter? Who knows :)

mooderino said...

@Christine-i think books can offer a more personal experience, although the 3D Kindle is probably in development.

@Alex-to be fair most movies to books aren't so great either.

@crack-laziness is very seductive.

@Ted-I imagine it would raise the cost of the book too. Perhaps people will only want deluxe books in hard copy in the future.

@AK-I think ebooks will probably give us something new, not sure they've worked out what yet though.

Bish Denham said...

I will always prefer reading in bed to watching TV in bed.

Elise Fallson said...

I have to admit, I sometimes prefer sitting down, switching my brain to hibernate and watch a movie (not a big TV fan). But when I want to feel real emotion, get my heart rate up, and get into the mind of character, there is no substitute (at least not yet) to a good book.

Mina Burrows said...

I'm not a TV person. And as far as movies, its such a let down when the movie you heard was great, sucks. For me, books are my own personal tv/cinema.

Lydia Kang said...

I echo Alex's comment. So many movies can't do justice to those "little words."

mooderino said...

@Bish-ah, but will the kids feel the same growing up with their iPillows and bedertainment centres? (I may be slightly out of touch with what kids do these days)

@Elise-I'd like to read what you're reading.

@Mina-everything gets so hyped it just gets ridiculous.

@Lydia-true, it's very difficult and rarely done well.

Unknown said...

I hardly ever watch television anymore. I'm too busy reading, photo-editing and writing. The deep POV is a very valuable tool if used well. One thing I don't like is when an author uses thought to convey the feelings and emotions of the main character. I think some things should be left to interpretation of the reader. We readers are smart enough to know we'd be afraid if a fire-breathing dragon appeared before us, swiping a talon.


The fire-breathing dragon swiped at Jeremy. This frightened him.

Well of course it did!

I'm reading a book now which has a pretty modern feel to it, but there's way too many battle scenes for my liking. It's almost like the writer is wanting a visceral response from the reader and in order to get this, they must have "battle" or something physically exerting. To me it's not the case. You only have to get into the character's senses like smell, taste, sound, etc.

I'm not certain how else the novel can compete, but I think cinema entertainment isn't quite working for me these days. It costs $10.50 per person for the movie and then $4.50 for a drink, $5.00 for popcorn. The movie is over in 2 hours.

I'd much rather spend $2.99 on a good ebook and cuddle my blanket on the sofa with a nice cup of hot chocolate. :)

Nate Wilson said...

I say there are four major forms of storytelling: film, TV, books, and grandpa after a couple drinks. (In fifth place: the theatre!) Books take the most time commitment, but they certainly have advantages to the visual media, not just in deeper POV but in the power of imagination. (Also, unless you can read a novel in an afternoon... hourly cost.) Movies and TV give you almost everything: the story, the look, the voices and sounds. With books, they give you the first and you get to create the rest.

Colin Smith said...

Perhaps one of the reasons e-readers have caused such a stir in the publishing industry is because it is the first major change to the whole reading experience in 500 years. It's akin to when the first "talkies" hit movie theaters. People aren't sure what to do with them, and many are frankly scared about what it will mean to the publishing industry. But ultimately, for writers, it should be good news; e-readers represent the first new way to tell our text stories in 500 years.

And I'm with the "books-better-than-movies" crowd. Though I enjoy a good movie, I like the active participation of my imagination that comes with reading a good novel.

A good and thought-provoking article. :)

nutschell said...

another great post, moody. YOu've outlined exactly why I love reading books more than watching TV or film. I love being able to get into the characters heads.

Happy A-Zing!

PK HREZO said...

This is why when I see a film I love, I always look for the novel version so I can really get inside the story. TV and film only graze the surface of a story I crave to know all the ins and outs of.

mooderino said...

@diane-i think any time it's too obvius what you're trying to do (in any format) it loses its impact.

@nate-I didn't include theatre because it's in such a terrible condition. A small group of people producing vefry little of value (but lots of musicals).

@Colin-I do think ereaders are shaking things up, I think for the better. But only time will tell.

@nutschell-something I think we should try to take advantage of as writers.

@Pk-I think TV is starting to challenge in terms of going in depth and complexity. Books still in the lead though.

Veronica Sicoe said...

AWESOME post, Mood! Hail to deep POVs! They've always been my favorite to read, and the only way I can write a story.

What also sets books apart is that you're not limited to a budget. You can choose any setting you want, invent fantasy and sci-fi setting without regards to travel expenses and special effects costs, and you can create creatures that don't require a stunt-man in a costume but employ the reader's imagination in unexpected ways!

Jaye Robin Brown said...

I once saw a post somewhere where writers were commenting on if they watch television or not. It was surprising how many of us don't have televisions (in my case - no reception, no cable, though I do have a TV and order in Netflix).

I think books are here to stay even if paper goes by the wayside.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I watch television and read books. I think both mediums have something to offer. I do stand by what I say on the Hunger Games though...and that is the movie is better than the book. I think that the book failed for me because Ms. Collins went too deep in explaining her world and pointing it out that I saw through all the cracks and it took me out of the suspension of disbelief and made me think, "This is rubbish!"

The movie glossed over all the cracks I'd discovered in the original narrative...didn't even explore them...and just presented the world in a visual medium that got right to the point.

So I loved the movie...have seen it multiple times. But pass on the book. I know that sounds weird but it's the way I feel.

mooderino said...

@vero-thanks! and hail!

@jaye-i watch lots of tv shows (not usually on a tv though). I think good stuff can be found in all formats (if you look hard enough).

@Michael-well, they were written for children.

momto8 said...

my kids are surprised EVERY time at how much better the book was than the movie!

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