Archive for October, 2011

I Am a Longhand Reactionary

Ever since I purchased my first computer, an Apple IIe in 1984, I have mostly composed using a word processing program. I have taken a 180 degree turn and regressed to the pen and yellow legal pad form of composition.  I made the interesting discovery that the flow of a pen actually aids rather than hinders my flow of thought. I write more freely. The cursive handwriting connects me in some intangible way with the creative process.  The movement of my hand seems to permit prolixity and to prevent censorship of ideas at this stage of the writing. Freedom to entertain any thought is desirable in the first draft.  In later drafts the grammar police and style director can assume control.

Writing in longhand produced another side benefit. In transcribing my handwritten draft into my Word document, I revised and edited as I typed, resulting in a second draft.  The printed effect on the computer screen projects the illusion of a finished draft or print-ready copy–very deceptive impression when it in fact needs more careful reading and rewriting. A draft on a yellow pad gives no such illusion. Scratch-outs, arrows and sloppiness beg for cleaning up and smoothing of sentences and paragraphs. Oversights, defects in tone and voice, lackluster prose, clunky phrases and anachronisms stick out like the thistles and weeds they are. New or better ideas occur while typing the longhand into a Word document.

So I am a throwback to the Middle Ages. Maybe not exactly Heloise bent over her escritoire with quill and parchment, but the ball pen and yellow legal pad serve me as well as it did  for her writing love letters to Abelard. Keyboard pecking or moving a pen across paper is a matter of taste.  Styles sometimes do come back into fashion.  The advantages that I discovered writing a first draft in longhand did change my style of composition. This long-hand writing reactionary likes the benefits she sees in her current work in progress.


Movie Adaptations

I like viewing the movie adaptations of the novels I have enjoyed. Everyone agrees that the movie version no matter how good is never as good as the book, yet the movie adaptation can be very good of its kind.  Movie-making and novel-writing are distinct art forms. It may take upwards of eight hours to read a book and two hours to watch a movie. The screenwriter has to coalesce the essence of a novel into a 150-page film script.  The general measure is that one page of script equals one minute of footage. The artistry of the film maker transfers into cinematography the essence of a book that may be 400 pages long. In so doing, a variant on the theme is produced but not the total vision of a novel. Something new is born. The novel inspired the film but obviously is not its visual incarnation because it is impossible in the time frame of a motion picture to capture every dramatic scene.  So it isn’t surprising that readers are often disappointed with the film adaptation.

When Gabriel García Márquez was asked in a 1981 Paris Review interview whether he thought a novel could be successfully adapted to the film, he responded: “I can’t think of any one film that improved on a good novel, but I can think of many good films that came from very bad novels.”

Because the film and a novel are different genres, I try to read the book before I ever see the movie. The very process of writing a script for a film adaptation in itself is a separate art form–the first step the book’s realization on the screen. I prefer to visualize first how I see characters in my mind’s eye rather than how some director visualizes the characters, action and scenes.  The dearth of dialogue in modern America film annoys me.  Foreign filmmakers do a better job with dialogue while Americans seem to focus on cinematography, using facial expression and body language to capture character. One of the best films I have ever seen is The Piano because Jane Campion wrote the script and directed the film. It is a rare film that sticks in my mind so long and poignantly as this one does. I have watched it more than a few times.  In your mind what are the memorable movies of all times? Are they adaptations or original film scripts?