Monday, December 11, 2006

But would it make a good movie?

(Yes! Two posts in a short period of time! Look at me, I'm creative!)

I'm sure you're all eager to hear my opinion on Britney's "womanly space" (as Furonda from America's Next Top Model so charmingly called it), but something else has taken my fickle fancy.

The book-as-movie, or the book-to-movie, or the "My book would make a great movie!"

It seems to me this is a question that really separates the men from the boys (yeah, I'm sexist that way), or the writers from those interested in playing the Published Author Role-Playing Game (TM).

I don't write movies. I don't ever sit and think, "Who would play my characters in the movie?" In fact, I don't model my characters on particular actors either (although I do have a hero who bears a slight resemblance to James Franco. Sheer coincidence, and the resemblance is only in my head--I didn't use that as a visual clue for the readers, because I consider that rather cheap--but there it is. Mmmm. James Franco. I digress.)

It always confuses me when people talk about their books as movies, or who would be in the movie, or "My book would make a great movie!" Because I just don't think that way. I write because I love to read and I love to write.

I love to read and write in all different sorts of formats. I love ebook and print books and comics and graphic novels--and I love the visual storytelling of comics and graphic novels, but I still don't read those as "If only this was a movie". Comics and graphic novels don't need to be movies (although they tend to translate well) because they're already visual. They're art. They can do things movies can't do.

I think what bothers me so much about the "movie fixation" is it implies a desire to lose ownership of one's work. It implies the book itself is not good enough, that a story must be on a movie screen for it to be legitimate--in the author's eyes. It's as if they don't think writing books is good enough, and that makes me sad.

(BTW, don't get me wrong. My theory on books-as-movies relating to my own books pretty much follows Stephen King's--give me the money and do what you like. The books are still out there, in the form the author intended. I wouldn't say no, believe me. I just don't see the desperate appeal of such a thing.)

I wonder, if you're writing with a movie in mind, are you really writing the book you should be writing? Or is some subconscious part of yourself thinking, "Don't put that, it wouldn't work onscreen"? Are you failing to commit to your book because somewhere in your mind it's really a film?

Perhaps this is why agents tend to list "My book would be a great movie" as one of their big turn-offs? Perhaps even if the book is good, that phrase implies the author is not committed to writing as a craft and an art form? That they view a book as a stepping stone, and not a finished product on its own.

Commit to your work. You're writing a story for people to read, whether it's a plain book or a picture book or a comic book. Stop worrying about the peripherals.



Anonymous said...

I've seen some excellent books turned movie get ruined by having the almost inevitable Hollywood political slant embedded in the movie version.

An example: Flags of Our Fathers is an excellent book. But, if you go see the movie there is a very heavy dose of racism that isn't in the book.

The practical approach would be to take the money and run when a deal is offered. But, one should consider the fact that their art would be butchered. -JTC

Robyn said...

If you want to write movies, write a screenplay. It's hard enough to get published without trying to get a movie deal at the same time.

I'm with Stephen, though. You want to make a movie of my book? Gimme the money and have fun.

ello said...

Hi December Quinn! Followed you from your EE posting of your query letter. Just wanted to say that I really liked your query and would definitely read your book. I'm so glad to know whose query I was excited about since so many are anonymous and you never hear a word from the author again.

Regarding books into movies - I write cinematically. Meaning, pictures in my head translate into words on paper. Writing instructors, teachers and writing group pals all say that my work reads cinematically (is that even a word?) as well. However, that doesn't mean I sit there wondering who would play my main characters. I just want get my book published (which I still haven't finished). Perhaps when people say there book would make a great movie, it is because they, like me, have envisioned it in their heads?

Anyway - good post and good luck with your book.

Bernita said...

Think there's two different things here.
It may help to run scenes through out head LIKE a movie or video, but, anyone who claims their book would make a "great" movie, I tend to think of as being enamoured with that cart called "fame."

December Quinn said...

True, JTC. I believe Crichton's Rising Sun was one altered beyond belief by Hollywood, though I didn't see it--I remember hearing about it.

Although I agree about seeing your work altered, I also agree the book is still there, in its original form. Someone took your idea and words and changed them, but they didn't erase the book. So I think I would be a take the money and run girl, I'm afraid. :-) Just like Robyn.

Hi ello! Thanks so much! I admit being accused of plagiarism and derivateveness (is that a word? Lol) did upset me a bit...but having people make comments like yours make things all better.

I don't think there's anything wrong with writing cinematically, or with writing a book that would indeed be a great movie. More power to anyone who does it well, or gets that movie made. Or even with people who see their books as movies while they write--I do the same thing.

My issue has more to do with people in the middle of their first books ever, who talk about movie rights as if they're the end-all be-all. "I'm writing this book that will be a great movie!" or even querying agents with "this book will be a wonderful film" as if the book's being an actual BOOK is irrelevant.

I think we all fantasize. We all wonder who might play the characters in a movie (or even picture the movie of our lives!) The difference is some people write books because they love to write books, and other people write books because they dream of having a movie made. It's all about motivation, not results. Did that make sense?

December Quinn said...

Or ditto what Bernita said. :-) Don't worry about being famous; worry about writing a good book.

kis said...

I do tend to think of my characters with actors' faces. Not with the idea that the book would ever be made into a movie, or that those actors would portray the characters, but to help me envision scenes. The young Omar Sharif, Lawrence of Arabia young--sooo freaking hot. Jude Law in AI, with that odd, burnished veneer over his features, was the perfect visual for one of my characters. And Benicio Del Toro--the best thing to happen to puffy eyes since Robert Mitchum. An interesting face is just the coolest thing.

That said, hair color, eye color, body type are all up for grabs.

Of course, your observation is proved by my husband's insistance that my stories would make great movies. Number one, he hasn't read any of them to any real degree. Number two, I'm pretty sure they're too multilayered for the screen. Maybe a miniseries? hahaha.

ello said...

Well, December, Love your name, by the way, with regards to the comments on your query letter - I think you did really well overall. And no offense to Hawkowl, but I have disagreed with 99% of her comments and opinions and clearly her taste and mine are polar opposites. And I think that I am more likely the type of reader who would like your work and buy your book. The one thing that I know for sure is that people's tastes are so very different and there is a reader for every book out there. I think you handled the criticism very professionally also.

About people thinking their books would make great movies, do people really talk like that? I guess I'm not around alot of writers like that so I don't know. I know screenwriters who talk like that, but... then that's their job. ;o)

December Quinn said...

Ah, kis...Benicio del Toro. Oh, I adore him. He's so sexy.

My husband won't read my work either. He always says he's going to, but he never does. Sigh.

Well thanks some more, ello! I do try to be as polite as I can, and while I've grown fond of Hawkowl, I do agree her comments should be taken with a grain of salt, as everyone's taste is different. I don't think she deserves whomever the anonymous is who keeps being nasty to her, but as I was expecting that exact comment from her, it didn't really bother me.

The book was written for people like you and me, who do like that sort of book, which makes your comments more valuable.

And oh yes, people do talk about that. Miss Snark and Agent Kristin have both blogged about getting queries like that before, and I think a lot of other agents have as well. You find a lot of people at SF/F conventions and stuff saying that, apparently. I guess it really comes down to, think it all you want, but saying it makes you look like an amateur.

writtenwyrdd said...

Personally, when I envision the lucky day the movie is made from anything I write, I imagine myself saying, send me the money, seeya, bye--and running the other direction. I don't want to rewrite my baby; I don't want to rape it and whore it out for Hollywood; and I already sweated blood to get it published. I am done with it, want to go on to something else, thanks.

And, finally, I hate being noticed. Don't want Hollywood attention. Will avoid author photos as long as I possibly can.

Erik Ivan James said...

The first time I thought about my WIP as a potential movie was just I read your post. Didn't like the thought much.

I'm not a movie-goer. I'll guess I've been to the movies...uh...maybe three or four times over the past lot'a years. And, I am not a celebrity follower either. So, I don't drag any of those faces into my imagination to become my characters. I can't even tell you who the players are in House, or CSI, or the Gardener-fucking Housewives, or any of the others---I've never watched them.

Maybe something is wrong with me? Maybe my characters won't relate to the folks; not being fabricated in the image of some "cover" guy or gal? Hmmmm.....

December Quinn said...

Ha, me too, written. I don't picture the movie. I picture me re-reading my book, with a big fat check in my hand.

December Quinn said...

I don't think so at all, Erik. I don't think watching movies has any kind of positive effect on writing--if anything, you can be sure you haven't accidentally lifted a character trait or bit of dialogue. (Not that I've done that, of course, but c'mon, who doesn't worry about it at some point?)

Anonymous said...

". . . accidentally lifted a character trait or bit of dialogue . . ."

That could also happen on a subconscious level, I think. If you ever write something and it seems eerily familiar, you may want to research it and make sure that hasn't happened. -JTC

December Quinn said...

Oh, it definitely could happen at a subconscious level, JTC. Like I said, I've never been worried about anything I wrote, but I'd certainly hit Google if I was!

Isabella Snow said...

My favorite book ever is The Neverending Story. Part II (which is part of the book itself) was the best part. It was after seeing those films that I realized how bastardized films can become.

But on the specific topic - I woulnd't want anything I've written turned into a film.

It would have to be porn, anyway, and you know how bad those chicks suck.

Er, no pun intended. ;)