Writing in the Film Generation

If I’m to be brutally honest, I don’t really read that much – particularly not as much as I think I should, as a writer. This isn’t a new problem for me, but I haven’t always been this way – in my youth and young adulthood, I used to read voraciously, devouring book after book with gusto. In fact, I would argue that I stopped reading so much around when I started writing (an odd coincidence, to be sure), but it also occurs to me that I stopped reading quite so much when I started watching.

I’ve always loved movies, film and TV, and there was a time when I would be excited about all the newest movies in theaters, or the latest TV show to grace cable networks (I’ve also come to realize that, as I get older, I kind of just want to watch the same stuff over and over again, a kind of comfort in familiarity). And if I’ve never said as much outright, I find that film and literature are really two sides of the same coin – namely, storytelling.

I think that’s what I really enjoy more than anything – a good story. Something that triggers the imagination, that gets the creative juices flowing, or simply makes you feel. And I don’t particularly think that any given story ‘needs’ to be told through any particular medium; the core essence of the story can be just as valid as a book, a poem, a photograph or a full-length movie. However, the way in which the story is told is more important to the medium, and this is where I think that, as I write more and more, I’m slowly realizing the influences that are guiding my storytelling.

You see, reading in the past – wonderful books like To Kill a Mockingbird, or Great Expectations, or even Salem’s Lot – got me feeling in a way that, in my experience, only a book could. When Scout and her brother are being stalked through the dark, or when Magwitch is waiting in the staircase for Pip, I remember feeling a deep unease, a fright and terror that no movie could ever instill in me – something that came from a deep caring of lovingly crafted characters, and the words on the page painted emotion as much as they did images.

Film, on the other hand, is (obviously) a heavily visual medium. And whilst some films don’t necessarily explore this in depth, others manage to convey the story in a way only visual imagery could. The Lord of the Rings, Lawrence of Arabia, or even the manufactured but highly enjoyable Marvel movies … these are all prime examples of stories that, I feel, are absolutely best told through film. The grandeur, spectacle, and beautiful blending of sound and light simply wouldn’t work as words on paper (ironic, that all of these would have started life as scripts – or in some cases, actual books).

But as I delve deeper into writing my own novels, I’ve come to realize that I’ve become more influenced by these visual stories even as I put digital ink onto screen. When I write The Redemption of Erâth, I see the story in my head, almost as a film playing before my eyes; I write it as if I were describing a movie. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that I’m really writing movies – 400-page movies, to be sure, but movies nonetheless. My inspirations aren’t the books of my past, but the films I’ve watched and adored.

It’s interesting, because in some of the reviews I’ve read, people have actually said that they would make great movies – perhaps because of the visual element I’m trying to instill into black and white text (not always successfully, of course). And it makes me wonder – is there room for a different kind of story in me? Can I even write a book that toys with emotions and thoughts in a way that film can’t do justice to?

In any case, I enjoy writing these stories – whether they’re primarily visual in my head or not – and I suppose I’ll carry on for now in the way I always have; after all, I don’t particularly want to see a great change of style halfway through the Redemption of Erâth series. But as I continue through my literary journey, perhaps I can try to include a little more of the written story in my books, as well.

What do you think? What books have made you feel things that you couldn’t imagine from a film? Or vice versa?

Thought of the Week: Character-Driven Fiction

I spent some time today (possibly wasted time—hard to say) going back through books one, two and what’s finished of three and counting the number of named characters in each book. Total so far? Ninety-three.

Nearly one hundred names in two and a half books seems pretty extreme; it means at least two newly introduced names per chapter, at least. Of course, not nearly all of these characters are important, and sometimes they are named merely for the sake of convenience (e.g. keeping track of who’s talking in dialogue). Of these ninety-three characters, twenty-four of them I’ve counted as ‘primary characters’; that is to say, characters without whom the book or the events within could not exist. Among these are:

  • Brandyé Dui-Erâth: the primary protagonist and hero of the story
  • Elven Dottery: his closest friend, and secondary protagonist from Exile onward
  • Elỳn: an Illuèn (race of Light), who features primarily in Brandyé’s dreams in the first book
  • Sonora: Elven’s sister, and catalyst for many of the events in Consolation

I ended up creating a mind map of all the characters, because I’m at the point where I’m starting to reuse certain names, simply because I forgot that I already used them before. This is what it looks like at the moment:

Mind map of the characters in The Redemption of Erâth, with partial connections shown.

Mind map of the characters in The Redemption of Erâth, with partial connections shown.

This is something I actually had to separate off from the mind map I’d created for the entire book series, which included a lot of other information such as races, themes, locations, etc. This mind map is actually so large that I feel it’s now less than helpful:

Mind map of the entire book series!

Anyway, the point of this is to say that I’m starting to feel a little overwhelmed by all these characters rearing their little heads and telling me their names. It makes me realize, though, that not all great fiction necessarily relies on a great number of characters. And that makes me despair, slightly.

How many people were in The Lord of the Rings?

How many people were in The Lord of the Rings?

Now when it comes to characters, there exist absolutely phenomenal stories with very large numbers of characters. According to Middle-Earth in Statistics, there are nearly 1,000 named characters throughout Tolkien’s extended worlds, including The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion. A huge number of these are there merely in passing, but nonetheless exist and were created by Tolkien at some point. Similarly, according to (the wonderfully reliable) Yahoo Answers, there are 772 named characters throughout the Harry Potter seriesWar and Peace purportedly has over 600 in a single novel.


“Without Pip, Estella, Joe, Miss Havisham and the others, there would be no story at all.”


Miss Havisham—one of the most unforgettable characters in literary history.

Miss Havisham—one of the most unforgettable characters in literary history.

However, one of my favorite works of fiction ever, Charles Dickens’ masterpiece Great Expectations, has only eighteen characters worth mentioning (according to SparkNotes). How did an enormous epic such as Great Expectations manage to reach its conclusion with such a comparably small number of characters? How did Dickens manage to keep the reader interested in so few people over such a long novel?

To my mind, the answer lies not only in the development of the characters, which Dickens does masterfully, but in the narrative itself, and the fact that in Great Expectations, the entire story is the story of the characters. It’s a life tale. Without Pip, Estella, Joe, Miss Havisham and the others, there would be no story at all. No one of them could be removed without severely affecting the outcome of the story, or potentially rendering it utterly impossible.

As much as I love the Harry Potter series, the same can’t truthfully be said, and this is evidenced by the film series: so many characters from the books were excised, condensed or changed that in some places things seem almost utterly different. Did Harry really need Hermione and Ron? Arguably not—the relationship between the three central characters, whilst important, doesn’t necessarily drive the story. Harry could have been attributed the characteristics of his two friends, and the battle against Voldemort and evil would have remained relatively unchanged.

Frodo and Sam—who really needed the other more?

Frodo and Sam—who really needed the other more?

To a lesser extent, the same could be said of The Lord of the Rings. Did Frodo really need Sam? Arguably, Merry and Pippin were more crucial to the plot than the relationship between these two main characters, for they encouraged the Ents to war, without which Helm’s Deep likely would have fallen.

And it makes me wonder about the direction of my own story. In some ways, The Redemption of Erâth is, like Great Expectations, the story of a single man’s life, from childhood to old age (much of which we have yet to see). But I’m starting to wonder if the story is too plot-driven; how much does the plot rely on the relationships between the various people of the world I’ve created? As far as I can see (and bear in mind, I can see a little further than you, the reader, at the moment!), there are only three people in the entire story that absolutely must exist for the story to be; much like Harry Potter only ‘needs’ Harry and Voldemort, or The Lord of the Rings only ‘needs’ Frodo and Sauron. At least I have more than that, but when I think about a masterpiece like Great Expectations, I realize that every one of those eighteen characters absolutely must be there, or the story fails. And it makes me wonder—where does my own story lie?

Which do you think is better—character- or plot-driven fiction?


Featured image from http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/harry-ron-and-hermione/images/7724592/title/trio-hbp-photo.

Satis Logo 2014

Gedacht an die Woche: Ich Liebe Dich (Aber Nicht Wie Das)

Es scheint das ich für noch ein Preis ernannt bin! Dieses ist alles ein bisschen zu viel – bald werde ich mit liebe gefüllt, und tanze ich auf die Rückseite von rosa Ponys.

Nein – nicht wirklich.

Nichtsdestoweniger, meine gute Freundin Alexandra Corinth wollte mich mit der Liebster Pries zu schmücken, das ich zu mein staubig Sammlung hinzu fügen werde. An der Geist von alles ‘Liebster’, es scheint nur passend das ich dieses Artikel auf Deutsch schreiben.

Erste, Alexandra hat mich mehreren Fragen gebeten, das ich (peinlich) zu antworten muss. Ich sorge mich über ihre Meinung der Antworten, und wenn sie sie verstehen werde.

1. Name a book you would read over and over again?

Great Expectations. Diese Geschichte ist einfach wunderbar, mit Stimmung und Dunkelheit, und Hoffnung, und Tragödie gefüllt. Für mich ist es eine der größte Geschichte überhaupt gesagt, und ich mit Pip, Joe, Magwitch und Frau Havisham verlieren könnte. 

2. If you could have 3 wishes granted, what would they be?

Erste wünschte ich für unbegrenzt Wünschen. Dann wünschte ich das alle meine Romana und Lieder im Augenblick veröffentlicht werde, so das ich nie wieder arbeiten muss. Dann wünschte ich für viele Cocktails.

3. Who was your favorite teacher, and why?

Herr Sanderson. Er werde mein Musik Lehrer in der oberen Schule, in eine Klasse von nur fünf, und er war einer des erste mein Talent zu regen. Es war einer der glücklichsten Momente von meiner Lebensdauer wenn er hat gesagt, das wenn er meine Musik hörte, wurde er nichts ändern.

4. Where is your favorite vacation spot?

Nichts war besser als Cornwall. Es ist klein aber beträchtlich, verlieret und freundlich, und die gegeronnene Creme ist für zu sterben.

5. What chore do you absolutely hate doing?


6. What is your favorite dessert?

Ich mag nicht zu viel Nachtisch, aber wenn sie ein Gewehr an mein Kopf gesetzt, es würde Schokoladenfondant meiner Frau sein müssen. Es tut Sachen mich an, erkläre ich ihnen.

7. What is your leave favorite mode of transportation?

Das Auto. Wenn ich antreibe, falle ich immer am Lenkrad schlafend.

8. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Ein Erbauer von Legos.

9. If money was no object where would you live and why?

An ein verlassener Fjord in Norwegen, mit trostlos Nebel umgeben. Oder Australien.

10. What is your dream career?

Ein berühmt Autor oder Komponist sein. Ideal mit jemand für mich alles schreiben.

11. What movie do you flat-out refuse to watch, no matter how good people say it is?

Alles das sie schreien lassen soll. Es gibt genug in der wirklichen Welt zu ungefähr schreien.

Und jetzt, wie üblich, ich lehne sonstes niemand ernannten ab; die Bloggers das ich liebe und schätze an der Unterseite von jedes Seite aufgeführt sind. Jedes von sie Anerkennung verdienen sind; bitte überprüfen sie heraus.