I’ve always been fascinated with films. The language of cinema is one of the most profound of any art form, because it is not just one language. Rather, it is a melody of every art form, photography, acting, writing, music, and whenever a new art form is introduced, cinema inevitably absorbs it into its collective, altering and enhancing its storytelling methods forever.
It was for this reason that I didn’t read nearly as much as I should have. Many books have graced me from The Color Purple to All Quiet on the Western Front, and all were met with the respect they deserved, but they never compelled me to read more. The language of cinema was of just greater personal interest.
Of course there was something I missed. Movies don’t really change when you re-watch them. Sure, you may view them with a different perspective, but the sounds and images remain the same. Books do change. The words stay the same, but nothing else about them does. The images that dance in your head grow and evolve with you, making each reading a fresh experience.
There are so many books I want to read. Slaughterhouse Five, 1984, The Great Gatsby, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Wizard of Oz, and I want to at long last finish the Harry Potter series. because it is a language I want to learn. I look at someone with a book in their lap and it fills me with a sense of envy. How lucky that person is to have access to something so profound as a bound collection of loose parchment pieces that transports them to another world.
Carl Sagan was right when he called books magic.
Plus, as someone who is working on their first book, reading may have been a good idea. In recent months I feel as though I was trying to translate the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs without the Rosetta Stone. I worked under the assumption that the main difference between writing and film was film deals with what you see and hear, and writing tries to not only convey that, but also what a character thinks, feels and even remembers at any given moment.
In short hand, film is to be an observer, while writing lets you know a character in a much more intimate level. You’re inside their head.
I also worked under the false assumption that writing a book is not nearly as hard as making a film. Granted, making a film is a serious financial and physical undertaking that requires hundreds if not thousands of people to complete. With a book, no matter how big it is, no matter how great the scale is. All you need to do is sit down and start typing and anything you dream, anything you want, will be there.
Easy, right? What could possibly be more liberating than not having to worry about money, interference or even the weather ruining a shooting day? If you want sun, you’ve got sun. If you want rain, you ask how heavy. If you want a tornado to roar through a specific spot, it will obey your every command. A million extras? No problem. An entire city burning? Where are the matches. The power is yours.
Only it isn’t really easy all the time. External stresses do certainly pale when compared to making a film, the mental stresses can match, and perhaps even exceed time on a set. On a set, you can always write up errors to a bad job by the crew, weather, studio interference and any number of external forces. If the book comes out flawed, you have no one to blame but yourself. It is a heavy burden.
It creates a much greater sense of responsibility that I could not have anticipated. Enough to leave you physically exhausted as you get ready for another draft after two years of trying to will the words alive.
I still hold out hope that I’ll learn the language and the method of books, and the craft will improve as my understanding of it does. I hope it will be enough to make this manuscript finally take a breath, an accomplishment that would make anyone proud.