Monday, May 6, 2013

Writing Problem With a Silver Lining?

To read or not to read, that is the question.
Have you ever watched a movie and wondered, “Could the book have been this good?”

That’s not how it usually works.  Traditionally, the book, or source material for a movie, is the superior product and the movie does a decent job translating that to the big screen.  That’s if the movie is any good.  Watching Silver Linings Playbook, I was left thinking about the source material this movie is based on.  For me, the movie was just perfect.  So much of the strength of the whole thing was in the incredible actors involved and the performances they gave.  And of course, credit is due to the director and screenwriter and all the other talented people involved in the creation of something as big and ambitious as a feature length movie.

So how could the original book have conveyed what those actors did in the movie?  I was one of the people who saw the first Harry Potter movie before reading the book.  I enjoyed the movie (little did I know how much better they would get with each installment) and decided to go back and read the book.  I thought the book was fantastic.  Much better than the movie, and the experience of reading the book is what drew me into the franchise.  I also saw Twilight before reading the book.  The movie was unique and stood well on its own, but the source material was more engrossing and a more complete expression of the author’s intent than the movie could ever be (and yes, those just got worse as they went on).

I’m tempted to read The Silver Linings Playbook, but I’m afraid.  How could someone have expressed on a page what was shown so expertly through the amazing acting, facial expressions, and tone of voice of Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert DeNiro, when they embodied those characters so perfectly?

I think reverse engineering performances like that into our writing is the real challenge.  I’ve never thought about it that way before, but characters in books need to be just as vibrant, just as quirky, and as visually fascinating as actors on a screen.  If your reader can’t see the scenes unfolding in front of their mind’s eye with the realism, grit, and humanity that a real, live actor can bring to a role, then we haven’t created a character worthy of being read about.

I may still read Silver Linings Playbook.  And maybe I’ll be surprised to find what the author was able to create on the page after all.

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