Monday, February 8, 2010

On telling stories

One of the most frustrating aspects of the life that I've chosen, where I make up stories and then try to get people to give me money for them, is coming up with what might be a totally brilliant story and then having no idea how to write it.

Right now I've got four characters, a couple situations, and some vague idea of a theme, but no actual plot to bring it all together. Moreover, I don't even know what medium to write it for. I've got a great deal of familiarity with the comics medium (okay, okay, "sequential art"), and I can do prose if I need to, though I don't like to. But this might work better as a play, or even a short film or something, and that's totally outside my realm of experience.

I think a lot about stories and media and which kinds of stories work best in which media, and it seems to me like a lot of other people don't think about this at all. You can do different things in television than you can in a novel, and vice versa—and, more importantly, there are things you really can't do in television that you could in a novel, and if you're used to writing novels then your television scripts aren't going to work very well. One of the things that bugged me most about the Watchmen movie was that people kept trumpeting how Zack Snyder had done such a faithful adaptation of the book, and look how these scenes are almost the exact same image as it was in the comics, and the dialogue was taken word-for-word from the comics, when it seemed to me that making a movie out of Watchmen was going to fail from the start, because it made such great use of the medium of comics to do things that couldn't be done in any other medium. (I should probably do an in-depth post on this...eventually.)

Every time I come up with a story, I try to ask myself: what medium would best serve this story? If the story doesn't particularly need impressive visuals, then prose might be a viable form. If it's action-heavy, or has a particular pace and tempo that needs to be maintained, then it might work best as a motion picture of some kind. If it focuses on relationships, if the interactions between different characters are the most important facet of the story, then maybe a play would be a good choice.

(I'll be honest here: I've never written a prose story, or a motion picture, or a play. But I like to keep my options open, you know?)

Anyway, this story is burning a hole in my head, and I've got no clue what to do with it, and I hate that. So: anger.

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