Col Charlie figured it up once; we have 100 linier feet of books. We have books of history, theology, romance, management, business, biographies, autobiographies and cookbooks. I love reading. A writer has to read. I once gave a seminar and there was a lady in the back row that was leaning forward and very interested in writing- until she found out she would have to read!
Writers have to always be learning, discovering and living in this world. Yes, even if you are writing science fiction or fantasy, you have to understand this world to make a new one.
I think what is most interesting to me is when a producer gets the rights to a novel how he turns it into a movie. When I worked with Star Trek, the script was given to an author who turned it into the novel… that was cool too. But have you read some books and then seen the movie, or the other way around?
Sometimes I see a movie and then read the book. I see things in the movie and I think, what am I missing here? One of those movies was “Anne of Green Gables”. Great movie… but Anne tells us that Miss Muriel Stacy, the teacher who encouraged Anne to use her imagination and write stories was “leaving for her own reasons.” WHAT?!? So I trouped down to my library, went to the children’s section and asked Mecca Caron for a copy of the book. Well, there were three of them books to the series. I read them all… still don’t know why Miss Stacy left. But the movie, while it told the essence of the novels- took things out of order to tell the story.
Another one was the Jeanette Okes series which has been run on the Hallmark Channel- the “Love Comes Softly” movies are addicting. A friend lent me her collection of so many books it took a month to read them all. Now that was a shock! In the novel, Missy is two not nine at the beginning of the story. Clark loses a leg. Clark and Marty ‘adopt’ many children as their town grows and situations change. Clark becomes an interim preacher. Missy’s husband, Willy doesn’t die… oh the list goes on. Reading those novels really shook my sense of movie reality.
“Secretariat” was fantastic. The movie pretty much told the story the novel was like a supplement. It gave me the back stories, the history of jockeys and horse racing.
Right now I am reading “Green Fried Tomatoes’. It is very much like ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’ as it has nothing to do with the movie. There is a small thread that runs through the books that the screenwriters took to make these powerful movies. However the books tell much more about the towns, the people, the history of the towns and how the people grow with time. I was prepared emotionally for Green Fried that there were differences in the story line. It is good- but so glad I saw the movie first.
As for Garden- well- there is no book like it that I have found. A series of short stories make up the novel, with the death of Jim Williams being just one of the stories. The book's plot is based on real-life events that occurred in the 1980s and is classified as non-fiction. Because it reads like a novel (and rearranges the sequence of true events in time), it is sometimes referred to as a "non-fiction novel" or “faction”, a sub-genre popularized by Truman Capote and Norman Mailer. (Booksellers generally feature the title in the "true crime" subsection.)
“Small Sacrifices” was another great movie whose novel written by ex-cop Ann Rule was right on the money. In my opinion proved to me Farah Fawcett could, indeed act. The book was a page turner- the miniseries was riveting.
Which leads me to ask you what have you watched and then read? One of the teenagers I hang around with showed me a list of books she needed to read. She hates reading. She travels with me when I do seminars- which means she can recited what I teach to do- and she has tried a couple of the ideas and she finds they work. But reading… not up her alley.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” was on her list- and that was what I told her to read. I just saw on PBS a biography on Harper Lee, who I always thought was a guy… nope she is a sweet southern lady in Alabama. This was the only book she had ever written and doesn’t give interviews. What I liked was she wanted to write a book, but like me had to work to pay the bills. Friends of hers gave her enough money so that she could write the book without working outside her home. The love and trust of those friends is a mighty thing.
My friend read the book which her mother told me she was enthralled by the work. Now they are looking for the movie to watch with Gregory Peck and a then unknown- Robert Duvall. It warms not only the mother’s heart in me, but also the writer and movie goer’s heart also to have a new convert.
When we decided to write for Harlequin it was because they ticked us off. At a writer’s convention an editor said, “Don’t write for the love of money but the love of the romance.” Are you kidding me? The only time I give up nine months of my life for the love of romance is when I have a baby! To prove you can have a great romance as well as money we determined to write for the publisher.
My job was to read any and all Harlequin’s I could get my hands on that summer. I had a great life that year. Monday, Wednesday and Friday I would go to the small shopping center on Starkey Road in Pinellas Park, Florida. The bookstore would have a bag ready with ten novels for me to read. Next door was a deli that had these fantastic Chicago Dogs and two doors down was a baker who made these crazy Napoleons. Going to the park, to the beach or home I would eat the hot dogs, Napoleons as I devoured those novels.
Why read thirty or so romances a week for 6 weeks? I had to see what topics were being addressed in these books. How much sex, how much actual work were the characters doing while they were trying to get this romance off the ground. How long were the books, what did I see were the flaws in the books? For example for being 1980 it seemed odd that in 4 out of 5 books by chapter six our heroine was pregnant. Didn’t these professional women ever hear of birth control? Hence “To Touch a Dream” came about. First time birth control was mention in the Harlequin line of novels.
I read to remember about timing, moving the plot forward, developing my characters and showing how they are growing with the movement of the story. I think on how the author manipulates words, phrases or describes a scene. All go into my arsenal to prepare myself to write.
As you read your book think if it could be made into a movie. What would you delete or add to the mix to make the movie better. “Jaws” is a great example of this; a lot of adding information to the movie and removing most of the plot from the book.
If you are falling in love with a movie… is there a novel out there for you to read? Are the items in the movie true? Was Abraham Lincoln really a vampire hunter? Do vampires really sparkle? Was Tom Mix really Wyatt Earp’s poll bearer?
Teach your children to question what they are reading and watching. Just because it’s on the web, on TV, in a book doesn’t make it true or correct. We need to teach them as well as ourselves to think, question and then act on what we learn.
So I leave you this month thinking about reading, watching movies and perhaps seeing them in a different light. Perhaps you won’t write the next American novel- but perhaps a screenplay is in your future.