Last post I mentioned how the forthcoming movie Ready Player One, from Ernest Cline's novel, seemed like it was always meant to be a movie anyway. That, apart from how wretched the book was in general (nerd nostalgia is no less gruesome than any other kind), was the biggest thing I brought away from reading it. RPO read more like a treatment for a screenplay than it did a novel, so maybe filming it was just the intended end result anyway.
From what I've been told about the advice editors give to authors these days, that's not far from standard procedure. If you write the book as if it's a movie treatment, that increases its chances of being optioned, because all the really big sugar in publishing these days isn't in publishing — it's in ancillary rights. TV and movie sales, mainly. And nothing says that you've "arrived", culturally, like having Hollywood swoop down on what you've done and lift it up and toss it into the clutching fingers of the masses.
Which reminds me of an old joke, as per Frederik Pohl:
Q: What is a "feature film"?
A: It is one of several elements that combine to make up a major promotional effort.
In other words, the book doesn't exist to be a book; it exists as a pitch for a movie that hasn't been filmed yet. Enjoying it because it's a book is possible, but not really the intended function of the thing.
You don't need to perform a whole lot of digging through my blog archive to understand why and how I find this abhorrent in so many ways. But the largest for me is that it defeats the function of writing something, anything. A book can and should do things that a movie can't, and vice versa. Every time we opt that much more for a least-common-denominator end result between either medium, we impoverish both of them.
On hearing all this, my friend Steve Savage noted something: It's useful as an exercise to imagine how your story might manifest in different media, as an aid to thinking about it and teasing out its unexpected and uncontemplated dimensions. If you create fantasy casting or a soundtrack, for instance, that doesn't mean you want those things to come to life; they're just ways for you to make the whole thing a little more concrete in your head.
This I approve of completely — and it would be hard for me not to, what with how many times I've gone and done those things for my own works. But all that needs to remain a private exercise. A book needs to be a book in the ways that only a book can be a book.
My friend Scott Dellahunt noted that science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer has an interesting take on how how to half-house this: "He writes a book normally, but he serializes it. When preparing the story as a serial, he writes up a 'Previously' bit. He does the same for the last chapter, compiles all the recaps, and uses that as the screen treatment. Works for him; he's had a few adaptations." But again, the point seems to be: Write the book as a book first. Let everything else follow in its own way.
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