Friday, October 29, 2021

From The Screenplay Novel Manifestos 3

 I've read other screenplays, and they're a lot different from yours. Why?

Those aren't screenplay-novels, they're screenplays. They are meant to be produced into movies. What I'm doing here is a novel meant to be imagined as a movie. 

But it's just words. What I like about movies are the pictures.

Books can contain pictures, too.

Why don't you just write a regular novel?

I do. I have. But recently I have become interested in this approach to -- this form of -- writing. It's a method of writing that works for me; that re-inspires me after years of increasing frustration with traditional literary techniques.

So you hate traditional fiction?

No. When it is well done I admire it just as much as I ever did. I have gone through cycles, of course: there have been times in my life when I hardly read it at all. And there have been other times when I read it a lot (Korean literature has been a recent inspiration). But generally for me, something in much of the traditional fiction that gets published these days has withered. I have trouble maintaining interest in it. This does not mean, though, that I have lost interest in fictional narrative overall, since movies, too, are a form of fiction.

If I were the only person who felt this way, I'd blame myself. But many people, including sophisticated people who have invested considerable energy into establishing literary careers, seem to feel the same way. So I think the main problem does not rest primarily with any one individual; it rests with contemporary fiction itself. Or to be more accurate, it rests with the contemporary institutions of fiction.

Why is this? It's not as if literary fiction has gotten worse in its totality. There is a lot of good writing out there, and often -- usually when I read something by someone unknown -- I will be strongly impressed by it. Rather, the problem seems to rest with the fiction that is being chosen by the big publishing houses, the most powerful critics, and the prize committees. Supposedly this should be the best of the best. Unfortunately, a lot of contemporary work that we are told is great is lifeless or false.

Sure. But that's just a subjective opinion. I don't agree.

You're right, it is subjective. Unfortunately, the readership of literary fiction has been declining for years, and recently this decline has become alarming. By all means, read traditional novels, and, if they move you, venerate them. But we have to face the larger cultural reality. We have to think in new ways.

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