Friday, April 25, 2014

Write a Novel that Spits in Hollywood's Face - guest post by Gregor Xane

Write a Novel that Spits in Hollywood's Face

Many writers dream of their books being turned into movies. It's nice to dream. However, a book being adapted to film is an exceedingly rare thing. The chance of it actually happening is only slightly better than the manuscript magically transforming into a suitcase stuffed full with a million dollars in unmarked bills. I understand, in part, why this dream is so appealing. No matter how crummy the film based on your book turns out to be, it's still an advertisement for your book that someone paid you to make. But what I don't quite get about the author's dream of having a book turned into a film is that so often it seems as if film adaptation is seen somehow as transcendent, like the green light given by a movie studio executive is akin to the touch of God.
Why is it that the novel yearns to be transformed into another art form? Why do novels need to be validated by becoming comic books, video games, TV shows, and movies? Is this a defeatist 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em' mentality? Or, is it a desire to be accepted into the 'in' crowd?

Yes, I know money is a factor. I wouldn't turn down the options or the licensing payments, and I wouldn't expect any other author to do so. But I think this dream of adaptation truly is rooted in a deep-seated insecurity. I think many authors secretly feel that a novel is somehow a lesser form of entertainment, or, at the very least, a very uncool one. After all, the media tells us every day that no one reads anymore.  The consumer's attention is becoming increasingly fragmented. So many other noisy and colorful and attractive things are screaming for the potential reader's attention from their computer monitors, their television screens, and the smart phones singing and vibrating in their purses.
So, what should novelists be doing about all of this competition out there?
They should be writing novels. And they shouldn't be thinking of them as homely book caterpillars that might one day transform into beautiful feature film butterflies. They shouldn't write with one covetous eye turned to Hollywood.

Instead, they should dedicate themselves to writing novels that are un-filmable. They should focus their efforts on producing stories that must be read, stories that would be impossible to reproduce in any art form outside of the novel.

Science-fiction and fantasy authors should build set-pieces that would cost billions each to render even with today's uncanny CGI technology. They should create aliens and monsters conceptually impossible to reproduce on the silver screen. They should construct complex worlds and stories that are just too large even to fit in a long-running HBO series.

Mystery and thriller writers need to more fully embrace the legerdemain only available on the page, the type of misdirection that can't be achieved in the visual mediums.

The mainstream and literary fiction authors (all authors, really) should build characters that jump off the page, sentences that demand to be read and re-read, novels that fully exploit the unique advantage the written word has in its ability to engage the intellect in a much deeper way than can ever be achieved even with the greatest, most cerebral, two hours of cinema.

In short, novelists should focus on the novel's strengths. They should write books that make this conversation happen at the water cooler:

"Have you read [insert novel title here]?"
"No. I usually wait for the movie."
"Nobody could make this book into a movie, man. Trust me. It's just not possible."

Novelists should say, "Fuck you, Hollywood. What I've written here can never successfully be adapted to film. Feel free to try, but this bitch will bankrupt your studio."

Of course, by this point, many of the folks currently reading this are saying to themselves, "But all the best novels out there already do these things!"


We need more of them.

The above is an uncensored guest post by Mr. Gregor Xane whom I invited to share his thoughts with my readers.

Gregor Xane reads and writes in Ohio.

You can find out more about him by visiting
his  blog
his  Amazon page
or his GoodReads profile


  1. This is wonderful. In fact, I wish more authors would write with this attitude. I can't count how many movies-from-books I've seen that have disappointed me at the very least . . . or angered me at the worst. Some only seem to have the title in common.

    The book will always, ALWAYS be better than the movie. I don't care how well it's done, those people don't know how I've pictured a book's world in my head, and I don't want them to wreck my vision.

    Ironic, Henry, that the first time I finally get around to visiting your blog, Gregor's doing a guest spot. I'm sure I'll love whatever you write next on your own. ;)

  2. Lynda,

    Thanks for the comment. Yup, we need more writers with a backbone.