Lately I’ve read a few too many books that felt as though the author had a blockbuster movie in mind as they were writing: the stereotypical tropes, the unrealistic plot twists, the convenient distant connection that reappears at the end to save a character in free fall. If I wanted to watch a braindead movie, I’d watch it, not read a book about it!
I pick up books because they’re supposed to offer more than that! They’re supposed to lift the spirit, give your imagination a workout, stretch your ability to make connections yourself. I don’t want everything handed to me on a platter, silver or otherwise! I actually want to work, and I want my work to be enjoyable, and I want it to be rewarding in the end. It doesn’t have to give me the solution; I might not like your solution; I might disagree with your premise. I want to be able to imagine a variety of scenarios, and interpret a slew of possibilities.
Books aren’t my escape. I don’t believe in escaping from anything (other than bloody war). I LOVE books because they expand my horizons, they allow for endless possibilities, and they ease me into uncomfortable positions, where I’m faced with ideas and perspectives that I wouldn’t have faced otherwise, and I can empathize with them!
Books put words to feelings you recognize but can’t explain. Movies, unless supremely well crafted, are limited in their ability to do this, simply because of the sensorial overload. Movies tend to feed images and sounds, warp feelings, but are very seldom conduits for deep thought and analysis in the immediate aftermath, in fact, they often thwart reflection altogether. I have watched many movies, and I must qualify this by saying that there are many really thought provoking movies, but I will also say that they’re more often than not, NOT blockbusters.
Stories that last survive in countless versions, precisely because they evoke a common idea, a common principle, and people adapt them to their circumstance. People have always felt more freedom in being able to imagine the possibilities, rather than in having them handed down to them. That’s how Native story telling works: through the gaps, at the edge of knowledge, they are often disjointed and open ended, to allow for the listener’s input, interpretation and participation.
Participation is the key. When you write, you enter a contract with the reader, where you give clues, and the reader fills in the gaps. There’s a mutual understanding that I won’t give it all away because you want to be able to figure it out, because it’s out of mutual respect that we allow maneuvering room. Nobody wants to be boxed into only one possible interpretation, especially if it doesn’t make any sense to us!
If you’re thinking about writing a novel. PLEASE don’t imagine a blockbuster movie. Write for the pleasure of writing AND reading, because that’s where the minds meet!