I wasn’t allowed to want to be like someone else, or whine because someone else had something I didn’t.
Comparisons aren’t fair most of the time, and they’re absolutely death for an author. You should never compare yourself, or one of your books, to anyone else.
But the other night as I was watching a movie, it struck me that maybe you could compare books to movies.
Let’s start with the premise that you’ve sought out a movie. You’ve read reviews; your friends have raved about it. You love the stars. You’re already hooked. You’ve plunked down your money and you’ve set aside time to watch.
With a book, you may or may not know the author. You may have gotten it for free. You’re willing to invest a few minutes to see if it’s any good.
Components of the comparisons
- When you start a book, if it goes on and on you’re left wondering what the heck is happening. You haven’t a clue. The problem is, you don’t care.
- When you start a movie often nothing happens right away. In a recent movie I was watching, the camera panned over the desert, focused on a cactus, and finally reached a body after seven minutes.
Conclusion: A book doesn’t have the time a movie does to set up. You’ve got to start right out of the gate. You have to interest the reader in the characters or you’ve lost them.
Point of View
- When you’re reading a book and you jump from head to head and viewpoint to viewpoint, you’re going to be lost.
- When you’re watching a movie, the story is often told from the viewpoint of the director, which means you might get a mix of characters right from the beginning.
Conclusion: The story is what’s most important. If the director is true to the story, it doesn’t matter how many characters are shown. In a book, the reader can get bogged down in the individual characters, trying to remember who does what, and the greater story is lost in the confusion. If I have to work in order to read a book, it stops being entertainment and becomes a chore.
- When you’re reading a book glaring errors slow down your enjoyment of the story.
- When you’re watching a movie, you often see weird errors from time to time.
Conclusion: A book is an intimate expression, an internalized story. Errors seem to matter more when you’re reading than when you’re watching a movie. Is that because of the emotional distance involved?
- When you’re reading a book, you can tell when the plot isn’t going anywhere from the beginning. Or, when the plot is insane (for lack of a better word).
- When you’re watching a movie, special effects can obscure the lack of plot.
Conclusion: A movie is more a visual experience, I think. A book touches our emotions more deeply. If I’m rooting for the characters in a book only to have things fizzle out, I feel cheated.
What do you think?