I know I blog a lot about movies and television shows. I think it works better than discussing books since most people have seen the movies I’ve seen, and a lot less have read the books that I have read. And while I enjoy story-telling in any media, I have to say, I do prefer books.
|Yeah the chairs look comfortable, but......|
Movies and TV have an advantage. They can set the scene immediately. What takes a page or two in a novel takes two seconds on film. Watching a movie is easy and takes considerably less brain cells than reading (there is nothing like watching TV and zoning out). Although there are definitely some movies that are complex and require some serious concentration to follow like Inception and Memento (two movies that I think are awesome). Even then, just presenting the visuals does a lot of the work for the audience. Because of this, everyone (or nearly everyone) watches movies or TV, but not everyone reads books.
|...wouldn't you prefer this.|
But books offer something that movies and TV can’t. You may have to piece the images together from a string of words, but you can also delve deeper into the POV characters. A good book draws you in and lets you feel what the characters feel and experience what they experience, not just see it. And to me that is the power of books that you just can’t get from watching a movie.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that movies can’t be emotional or moving. Many movies have brought me to tears, but it isn’t the same way that books move me. Books can (not all do) go deeper into the thoughts of the characters. Make me relate more to them, understand them better and feel more for them. That is something that can’t be translated to film (although it has been tried through cheesy voice over narration--like in the Twilight movie).
Example-Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows
We have all seen our beloved books turned into movies and even when it is done really, really well, there is something lost in the translation. Rarely are the movies as good as the books, and even rarer are they better.
Spoilers: If you haven’t read or seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yet, do not read on.
I thought the movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was well-done, but it could not compare to the emotion in the book. Especially in the scene when Harry realizes that he has to die, and he walks willingly towards his death. When I read this scene in the book, I was sobbing. I had to stop every few pages and wipe my eyes because the tears were so thick the words were all blurry. I had spent seven books with Harry, and I loved him. I felt for him and empathized with him, and seeing and feeling him accept his death was emotionally draining. Of course the movie didn’t have as big of an impact on me. Sure there were tears, it’s not really that hard to make me cry, but nothing like it was when I read this scene in the book. I did read the book first, but I still don’t think the movie had the emotional impact that the book did.
To further illustrate my point, here is a brief excerpt from Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (the beginning of chapter thirty-four right after Harry realizes that he has to die in order to kill Voldemort).
“Finally, the truth. Lying with his face pressed into the dusty carpet of the office where he had once thought he was learning the secrets of victory, Harry understood at last that he was not supposed to survive. His job was to walk calmly into Death’s welcoming arms. Along the way, he was to dispose of Voldemort’s remaining links to life, so that when at last he flung himself across Voldemort’s path, and did not raise a wand to defend himself, the end would be clean, and the job that ought to have been done in Godric’s Hollow would be finished: Neither would live, neither could survive.
He felt his heart pounding fiercely in his chest. How strange that in his dread of death, it pumped all the harder, valiantly keeping him alive. But it would have to stop, and soon. Its beats were numbered. How many would there be time for, as he rose and walked through the castle for the last time, out into the grounds and into the forest?”
Honestly, how do you capture this in a movie? Actors can show emotion through body language and facial expressions, but the thoughts going through the character’s mind cannot be captured, and that is what pulls the reader in deeper so that we can really understand what the character is thinking and feeling. Only books can do this.
Show don't Tell
I think that this is the real meaning of show don’t tell, to delve deeply into the thoughts and feelings of the POV character that the reader is almost experiencing them as well. It’s not about adding more details, but the right details, the ones that the POV character would notice and described reflecting the character’s personality and mood.
Reading (and writing) an entire book with this deep of a POV would be exhausting (not to mention the pacing would be so slow), and that is why there are times when telling is okay, when it is best to pull back from the POV and/or summarize. But those big moments like when the hero is knowingly facing certain death but going on anyway without hesitation, you need to delve deeper and make the reader feel it too.
I know this isn’t easy. I struggle to keep going deeper and deeper at those big moments. It is easy to describe what a character is doing, but it is much harder to describe exactly what a character is thinking. And in trying to achieve those moments of deep penetration I can’t help think of the quote. “Writing is easy; you just open up a vein and bleed.”
So tell me what do you think are the differences between movies and books?