Yes, we all know the original book is almost always better than the adapted screen version.
So what can your writing (and the writing industry) learn from movies?
Movies and books are both wonderful storytelling mediums. However, movie productions provide some ideas on breaking past isolation barriers, bringing your story to life and adapting to current societal and technological trends.
Create a soundtrack for your readers. There is nothing like a perfectly timed note that will have your reader clenching their seat or wiping their eyes. Use pacing to your advantage by pumping your reader’s heart and creating music with your writing. You can’t actually put together a soundtrack, but visualizing the music and tempo of a scene in your head can help create the perfect level of tension or drama.
Many books focus too long on setting, character or emotional descriptions that don’t contribute to the story. Take a page out of Ernest Hemingway’s book and trim the fat. Give readers the content they need and not what fills pages. Most movies don’t zoom in on a character wiping their brow if the character isn’t nervous. Skip over the petty descriptions and get to the meat of your story.
Adapt to technology
I hear and read too often about frustrations when being rejected from publishers or magazines. Why not self publish? Today, you are provided the tools and distribution options to create, format, publish and distribute an eBook, so what’s the point of waiting?
The purpose of writing is to get your work read.
Filmmakers are getting noticed by making videos on Youtube and giving away their work for free. Why not publish your book and give it out for free? 100 books read for free is always better than 10 books sold for $5 (or 0 books read since you are waiting for a traditional publisher). Get noticed by these traditional publishers with the tools provided to you.
Embracing the short attention span
Longer feature-length films win the most prestigious prizes at film festivals and awards ceremonies, but almost all of the greatest filmmakers start with short films. Why? Because the market is saturated with new talent and people don’t have the time or resources to watch dozens of rookie features.
The same goes for writing. Think about writing short stories, novellas or even a blog before embarking on a huge time commitment like writing a full novel. Chances are, more people will be excited to read something shorter. Agents and publishers are busy people and don’t owe it to the world to read every book ever created.
If you write a scene in a certain location, go and visit the location or somewhere similar. Film location scouts scour the world for the perfect scenery to convince an audience of a scene’s authenticity. While writing about a certain location, how can you communicate the sights, sounds and smells of the landscape without going there and experiencing it for yourself?
It takes many people to communicate a captivating story
Depending on the size and budget of a film, dozens to thousands of people may be involved. Writing is obviously a more solitary task, requiring less man/woman power, however to communicate a truthful story you need to get out and talk to other people.
Not only will this help in the marketing and motivational aspects of your writing, but it allows you to capture a realistic view of your characters and the world around them.
The film industry is far from perfect, but learning from other industries will only make you a more interesting, well-rounded writer.
What else can be learned from the film industry? Let me know in the comments.