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The Book Was Better

September 15th, 2014

Book-Better-blogDon’t you envy film directors? They have so many ‘things’  to help tell their stories: costumes, sets, props, special effects, orchestras – a whole arsenal of tools to generate mood, build up tension, put our minds at ease … And what do we writers have? Words.

So how can we possibly do all the things they do at the movies? How can we create the right kinds of atmosphere for our tales when we’ve so little to work with?

Well, I used to be in the theatre and, a few years ago, I was lucky enough to work with the Belgo/Italian director, Gennaro Pitisci. He often used to tell us that the most important thing in any of our performances wasn’t the actors on stage, it was the imagination of the audience. “We cannot compete with the cinema,” he used to say. “So our play is just a suggestion – a way in. The real story happens in the mind of the watcher.”

Now, as writers, I think we can say something very similar. There’s no way we can produce the same visual or sonic landscapes as a 3D IMAX movie. We have to rely on our readers for all that. In her article ‘Creating Atmosphere in Fiction,’ Writers Bureau tutor Esther Newton says: “To be successful a short story or novel needs to develop a strong sense of atmosphere. This draws your readers into your story so they can imagine the world you’re creating.” And, to me, that’s the key. We have to get them to imagine it. Because if they do, in their own minds, any reader can create better images and soundscapes than Hollywood (or Bollywood) ever will.

How many times have you come out of a cinema hearing people say “The book was better?” Well it was.

Keep on writing!

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