A recent discussion on Crimespace about books being turned into movies brought up something interesting for me.
Caroline Trippe wrote, “After all, when I read any novel, it plays out in my mind's eye like a movie -- I "see" the characters, the places, hear the dialogue. I would guess this occurs with most writers. Part of all writing is visualizing---then you bring that to life with language.”
And I wrote, “When I read a book I never visualize the scenes like a movie -- I hear the story being told by the voice of the book. I prefer it to be the voice of a character (or a number of characters) and I sometimes accept it if it's the writer's voice (but not often ;)
A long time ago at Concordia University in Montreal I took a writing class from Garry Geddes, a guy who was mostly known as a poet, and he asked us to read our stories out loud. At first I was opposed to the idea because I thought prose was meant to be read not “performed” but Garry was a good guy so I did it.
My friend Lisa Pasold (author of the excellent Rats of Las Vegas) was in that class and when I finished reading my story she passed me a note that said, “Your head is so red, looks like it’s going to explode.”
I guess I was nervous speaking in public, that’s really common, but I think I was also realizing something significant – for the first time all that talk about the “authorial voice” was making a little sense to me.
Before that I had tried to visualize stories, see them as movies I guess, but at that moment I realized that I wasn’t trying to write movie scenes, I was trying to capture those moments at the kitchen table when my Dad told a story or those moments at my Uncle’s cottage around the fire when he told a story or those times in the bar when my brother told a story.
That was when I started to realize that prose is stories being told. That voice, that point of view, is the biggest difference between a book and a movie.
The same characters in the same situations doing the same things can work both as a book and a movie, but they’re very different experiences.
What do you think? Do you visualize a book as you read it or do you hear it?