Writing, Reading, Watching

I stumbled into this idea by accident, but nonetheless I think it’s been helpful to me as a writer.

For most Americans, the primary way we access and process stories is through movies and TV shows. I know that’s stating the obvious, but walk with me for a moment.

For most writers, the thing we’re writing is a novel. Again, I’m stating the obvious, but novels are very different than screenplays, scripts, or (especially), finished tv shows.

We’ll start with the most obvious difference: length. Even a relatively short novel is usually twice the length of a movie’s screenplay (110-120 pages, according to the “Save the Cat Beat Sheet), and four times as long as a one-hour drama’s script (50-60 pages, according to MovieOutline.com). Now, granted, prose often takes more space to get the same amount of action in than a script does, but the actual amount of story is radically different.

But let’s look at some more subtle differences. First, for a TV show, you have an episodic structure, with short individual stories, one long story broken up into one-hour blocks (a long story that would itself be MUCH longer than a novel, even for a 12-episode short series), or a Burn Notice-style combination of the two, wherein a few major episodes form a major arc, and are referenced or mentioned within the bulk of the (otherwise self-contained) episode in the season. This is obviously a very different story structure than even a series of novels.

Secondly, the nature of the presentation is different. TV and movies are very visual media, and visual things are very impressive in that media (stunts, sets, etc.). However, prose descriptions of impressive visual things usually aren’t that impressive. They’re out of sync with the nature of prose, which engages less forcefully, but can pull the reader deeply in through engaging all five senses as well as through the prose style itself.

I’ve had to stop watching much TV in order to make time to write. It wasn’t a choice I made to improve my writing style, but a choice I made to allow myself the time I needed to write consistently. I still shoehorn in some documentaries and YouTube videos (more of the latter than I should), but watching actual TV shows has pretty much fallen by the wayside.

And I’ve become a better writer for it. I was too distracted by the neat things I’d seen in visual media to think about how they don’t apply to writing novels. And, this has shifted the balance of how I mostly get my stories. Now, I mostly get my stories through reading novels, and so my brain thinks more in prose. It’s been a real improvement.

I think the key isn’t so much that watching TV and movies inherently distracts from writing prose, but rather, that having my primary method of absorbing story be audiovisual distracted from writing prose. I still watch movies, and I still watch TV with my daughter (I’m particularly fond of Sarah and Duck, My Little Pony, and The Deep), but the proportions have shifted, and that’s made a real difference.

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Leap! An Unhyped but Delightful Film in Theaters Now

There was little hype for Leap!, a French film redubbed in English, but it’s definitely worth seeing with your kids.

We just took my 4 year old to it, and we all enjoyed it. It’s not terribly original, but it’s got charm and heart to spare.

Visually, Leap’s nothing short of beautiful, and you really believe Paris is a city where anything can happen.

What I Like: New Reviews Forthcoming


When I restarted this blog a few months ago, I tried something called “12 word reviews.” 

They never really felt right or caught on, probably because 12 words isn’t enough for any real information,  just a little snark.

 https://youtu.be/Pubd-spHN-0

And that meant I had to tack a few paragraphs on, which meant it wasn’t really a 12 word review at all.

But I do still want to talk about some things, mostly books, so I’ll drop the gimmick and just talk. 

Before I start, here are a few things I like to see in media: 

  1. Female (or otherwise non-male) lead roles
  2. Multiple female characters
  3. Who aren’t female re-skins of tired masculine stereotypes 
  4. Major characters (including leads) who are people of color
  5. Multiple non-white characters, including women of color
  6. Characters who subvert or just don’t fit gender conventions, in whatever way that fits the setting (including LGBT+ characters) 
  7. Perhaps most importantly,  a story that doors not perpetuate the myth of redemptive violence

    1-6  are partly on general principle (representation is a good thing)  and partly because I’m sick of reading,  playing,  and watching the same white male (anti) hero for the 800,000th time. 

    7 is because we are indoctrinated from early childhood with the idea that what makes the world better is killing or beating up the right bad guys. 

    It’s great training if you want a populace that uncritically accepts every war, bombing,  and use of torture the men in high places want to enact,  but it goes against the teachings of Jesus (and many other religious as well).

    Even the churches get in on this act when they teach preschoolers a sanitized version of David and Goliath (and forget to mention that David grew up to be a rapist who murdered his best friend to cover up his crime).

    So when I write about a book, movie, or game, I’ll most often keep these things in mind,  as well as the standard information,  like how i had to force myself to stop reading and go to bed,  or how the actual prose style worked out.