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Writing Media

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by skip.knox, Mar 8, 2019.

  1. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Pet Peeve Alert

    I cannot count the number of books and articles on how to write fiction use movies as their examples. I've got to the point where I simply put such works aside. Movies are different from books. They have different demands, limitations, strengths.

    Currently I'm reading a book on the heyday of radio, and it has a whole chapter on writing for radio--the limitations, virtues, demands. It got me to thinking (doesn't take much, as thinking is far easier than writing!): there are several other forms of writing, and none of these writing advice books--not a one of them--brings up, say, writing for theater as a model for writing novels. I'm pretty sure the movie connection is done because the author presumes more people have watched Winter Soldier than have seen an off-Broadway play. It's not really about giving good advice, it's about making analogies that people will get, or at least will believe they get.

    Still and all, it strikes me that there are several forms of writing for various media, and that it might be interesting if not downright useful to learn a bit about them. Now, writing novels is still sui generis (its own genre), but we humans do have a knack for learning lessons by analogy. Writing for radio was interesting to me because the words had to carry so much of the load--there's no stage scenery, no camera work, not even costuming. The actors did much with their voices, and sound effects played a huge role, but the writing itself was still vital. It was akin to play writing, more distantly related to screenwriting, and had some of the constraints of the short story. At the same time, certain elements are familiar: the need for a hook, setting up and closing out a scene, making sure the audience knows the stakes, and so on.

    My ideal book on writing would be one that took into account all the different ways stories get told (including oral storytelling), then cooked it all up especially for the novelist.

    Go write that, will ya?
     
    Chessie2 likes this.
  2. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Nope. Not gonna, and you can't make me.

    However, I'm curious about that radio writing book.

    I've been thinking that it would be interesting to try and write a story with the intent of it to be good/easy to read aloud to others - without making it a good night story for little kids - and I'm thinking that writing for radio might give some clues.
     
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I've seen stuff on novels and screenplays, and theater isn't much different than a screenplay. I'd be very interested in something on writing for radio, though, because it's a media that I think has a lot of potential right now with podcasting. But then again, I wonder if audio-only writing really met its full potential with radio to begin with, or if the time limitations of the media favored music and news so much that it never developed properly.
     
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Well, that was just one chapter, but I bet there are whole books on the topic. Probably long out of print. Hang on just a sec.

    ...

    Yeah, this search string "how to write for radio" returns a bunch of hits.
     
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    OMG, you really should listen to classic radio broadcasts from the 1930s well into the 1950s. There's some great stuff in there. Did you know Ray Bradbury, for example, got his start writing jokes for George Burns? That whole history is all but lost to you youngsters. To me as well, but I've been listening to classic radio with my father-in-law, who is 88 and who remembers this stuff.
     
  6. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    LMGTFY

    Got it. Will have a look around and see what fits me.
     
  7. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Vala

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  8. Helen

    Helen Sage

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    I honestly think that they are basically the same thing, reduced down to change, theme and so on. Format is different obviously. We're really asking the question, what is a story?
     
  9. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I think that the similarities are what we see the more we pull back from the format and look at the most general features.

    But the closer we draw in, the more the differences become apparent.

    For instance, a movie can offer a single, 3-second view of a scene that shows so much of the world, but prose would require a lot of words to deliver that same view, and this could slow down the pacing way too much. (Ex., the establishing shot.)

    Other media can give us ideas about what we might try to accomplish. This would be a good thing. But rubber-to-road, we might need to translate that learning into our own media in order to achieve similar things.
     
  10. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    A wonderful thing, the human brain. It can see connections where none exist, patterns in the chaos. At the same time, it can parse out an assertion until it becomes nonsense. The ability is so ancient we can say it in Latin: reductio ad absurdum. Even more fun, we can do both at the same time.

    But I really am quite done with movie analogies for novel writing. I'll reject it quicker than a book with a ninja vampire hunter on the cover.
     
  11. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    The three act structure is a common way to look at many novels and movies. That's why movies are applicable to novel writing, and for me, that's why I used them as examples. Movies, specifically Hollywood movies, tend to be very strict with their structure, so they're great examples when trying to study three act structure.

    There's a screen writing book called Saved the Cat. Just recently they came out with a novel writing version. It's basically the same book, covering the exact same concepts, except the examples are novels instead of movies. Regardless, they're both IMHO terrific books for writing.

    Yes, different mediums have different needs and present different challenges and advantages when executing a plot, but generally a plot for a TV show is very similar to a plot to a movie which is similar to the plot of a novel.

    Take a look at this chart of listing few different writing structures and how they line up with one another. They're each looking at a basic plot from a different viewpoint, and they're each emphasizing different features. From the way I view things, writing for TV or Radio or theatre is just taking a basic plot using one of these structure and tweaking it to address the pros, cons, and conventions of the medium in which it's being presented.

    my 2 cents, it's worth what you paid.

    [​IMG]
     
    Devor and FifthView like this.
  12. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    PenpilotPenpilot Thanks for posting that chart.

    For me personally, the more general features of storytelling seem to cut across lines, affecting the different types of media. Howard Tayler, of the Writing Excuses podcast, is able to join in discussions about novel writing and short story writing even though his primary endeavor is a web comic. Mary Robinette Kowal was a great addition to the podcast; she bring many years' worth of experience from stage puppetry and is able to translate her experience using puppets for storytelling into advice for novel and short story writing. I think some of Plato's dialogues show Socrates and his interlocutors interacting in ways that show the characters vibrantly, and I'm amazed by his talent for using his medium this way—at such temporal distance from us, heh.

    Unfortunately for me personally, many of these "larger" lessons concerning the more general features of storytelling are the things I've absorbed fairly well already. At least, I recognize these features and have a good theoretical understanding of them. It's the stitching of them together via words in a modern novel writing process that stumps me more often than anything else. For instance, I spent years studying poetry and think I could write a somewhat short narrative poem fairly well (not to mention loads of lyrical poems), but the modern novel-writing narrative process is a different creature altogether—even if the narrative poem and narrative novel will have some overlapping features.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019
  13. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Years ago, one of the local radio stations here did repeats of the great fictional radio dramas from the mid 20th century:
    'the Phantom', 'Dick Tracy,' 'What the Shadow Knows,' and others. Used to listen to them while delivering pizza.

    A few months ago, I took the daughter to see 'Ballad of Kenai,' a highly unusual local play that combined homestead era (50's and 60's) anecdotes and local characters with myths, songs, and themes from the pre-settlement era (roughly 16th-18th century). Characters from utterly different cultures grasping with similar themes and issues. (I'd put forth a link, but there's none that does the production justice.)
     
  14. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

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    I don’t think “writing” is the key in comparing movies to novels, it’s the basic structure. The actually writing is so different as to be pointless to discuss, except for some very minor things.

    But, Radio... A tangent here. When I was listening to Eve of Snows in audiobook, I often pondered little changes I would make in the novel if it was ONLY intended to be an audiobook. I also wondered why more books from big time authors who could afford, don’t do more dramatized versions instead of the typically dry audiobook, making it a bit more like radio theater. Full blown audiobook dramatization, I’d be more apt to buy that than the boring narrator Sanderson uses. I haven’t picked on Sanderson in a loooong time, so, it’s time to pick on his narrator.
     
  15. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    Oh, no. No no no yikes no!!
     
  16. Firefly

    Firefly Minstrel

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    I've seen you mention your Issues with Sanderson in passing on quite a few threads now, but never the reasons why, and I'm starting to get really curious : )

    I'm also not the biggest fan of writing advice that uses movies as examples, not so much because it doesn't apply to books, but because I am really not a movie person and I usually have no idea what they're talking about. I also agree that that sort of advice is a lot more useful for big-picture things like structure and theme.
    There are some instances though where it really does annoy me. Sometimes people try to carry things over that simply don't make sense, or people try and recommend techniques they've seen work well in film without having any real idea if it works on the page. I've seen some particularly bad advice when it comes to characters and relationships. They look like they should be the same, and in a lot of ways they are, but having an actor on the screen versus a character who's head you get inside of actually introduces a lot of differences.
    I think that's one of the big things to be careful of when taking advice from other mediums: you have to keep in mind the limitations and strengths of both
     
  17. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Auror

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    I will pick on a lot the big boys/girls in the fantasy universe because.. what the hell do they care what I say? LOL. I find Sanderson good, but not great. I’m not sure of the real genesis of it, I think we were discussing writing habits and I sug into some Sanderson work and found all kinds of little peeves I have. Nothing that’ll keep me from reading him, but! enough to give him grief. And then, he has the same door breaking twice about a page apart in one book, heh heh. So, I picked on him. And also, I really like the guy from everything I’ve seen and heard, and respect the heck out of him. So, the picking is in good humor. It’s not Name of the Wind, where I just don’t even get how anybody gets past the first 150 or so pages, LOL.

    Oooh, another Rothfuss shot!

    And that Martin... he’s gonna have to become an Other in order to finish his books...

    With movies/novels, the trick is at what facet are you looking? The writing itself is mostly incomparable. Story-telling has universal elements, except the movie tends to be limited in depth and scope.

     
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