Uniquely Individual

No two persons ever read the same book. ~ Edmund Wilson

Screenwriting versus fiction novels

Unlike screenwriters, the author of fiction has a unique challenge. When a movie or TV show is viewed, the characters are portrayed as the writer intended. Actors give life to the characters and the audience “sees” the characters as imagined by the screenwriter.

Book and letters

Not much imagination is demanded of an audience to envision a character’s appearance or facial expressions. It is the actor’s job to be that character. Whether it is raised eyebrows, smirks, “laugh out loud” moments, sadness, grieving, joy or any other emotion, the actor brings to life a character for the audience to know and experience.

On the other hand, each reader of a book will have a unique mental picture of a character presented in a novel. A reader’s life experiences and personal traits color his or her imaginative process. These cannot be altered by a writer.

How does the creative process take into account these challenges and differences? Does a writer even consider these creative challenges?

Do modern authors take into account technological differences as challenges of competition with modern technology and on-demand “storytelling”?

Do authors rely on book covers to provide a hint of a protagonist’s appearance?

Do these challenges explain why some writers provide trailers on YouTube?

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2 comments

  1. I thought long and hard about describing the main character in my first book. Eventually I decided against it, on the basis that I, as a reader, prefer to make my own mind up what a character looks like. A few isolated comments give readers an indication of how she views herself, but it’s pretty vague. BUT, I’ve been informed that readers SHOULD know, hence the cover of book two. It’s clear opinions will always be divided, but I still prefer the first approach and therefore will be sticking with it. I have my own idea of what the characters look like as I think the author needs to, but nobody else need know.

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    • One thing I omitted in my minimal musing about screenwriter’s characters is the actor must understand and be that canvas upon which the screenwriter communicates the story. It’s obviously rare because there are so many movies that should never have been made. Especially nowadays. The only reason they’re made is for monetary gain. This is only my opinion and I don’t presume to an expert on this or any subject.

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