Wednesday, February 6, 2008

State of the Genre

I often peruse Publisher's Weekly announcements of big deals, and I always find it a fascinating read, and have you noticed that it also includes film info. But, you say, this is, ahem, Publisher's Weekly, and shouldn't it be all about books? But, I say, we are now in the world of bovies or mooks, which has profoundly affected the way books are being written.

In the genre that I write and heavily invest in, the potential for movie and television deals is always a good shot because, hey, the who-done-it is pretty much is a sale. I know several people who have had their books nabbed for at least "treatments" because the media are desperate for material and what's $10,000 to them? I wish they'd send a little of that desperation my way, but hey.

Which means that since books sales are not great in general, across the board, people are writing for the movies. I can see it in nearly ALL the big name crime fiction authors. There's definitely been a shift. Lot less internal monologue and description. LOTS OF ACTION. In fact, the last book I read by one of the biggest names in the crime fiction world read like a screenplay. All that was missing were the character tags. It was so sparse that I expect he will have to do nothing to it for a screen treatment other than hand over the book with a, "Here."

I'm not saying action isn't good. Action is great. Descriptions of physical action move the story along both physically and mentally. A well-written action scene is worth its weight in gold. However, a screenplay is NOT a novel and a novel is not a screenplay. There is not (or shouldn't be) a seamless transition between one and the other. When an author writes a pseudo-book, what gets cut out is the characterization.

Plot becomes ALL. The motivation and the characterization are more or less sacrificed. In fact, I suspect that the author feels it might get in the way of a sale if you have too much characterization. What you are presenting is almost a blank page so that the director and screenwriter can fill in THEIR characterization. Which is nothing more than what hot hunk or bimbo of the week can we slide in here. If it's too defined, then the generic male/female actor won't work. Or it will be harder to make it work.

The last five books I've read are clearly written with movie or television deals in mind. I've been following certain authors for years and a comparison between their earlier crime fiction novels and ones written in the last two years? It's all about the movies.

If I wanted to read a screenplay, I'd buy one. You know?

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

I'm recovering from yet another virus (Kids + School + Winter = me as a viral, brainless lump.) so my thoughts are less than deep.... But it seems to me that writers, especially, have always been vulnerable and/or responsive to shifts in markets and technologies (e.g. teens in Japan writing novels on cell phones now). Some of the change that comes from that is crap and some not.

but, yeah, the traditional publishing industry is in crisis, like everything else in the country. you think the Dems can fix that too in '08?