Friday, July 13, 2007

Thoughts On Length

My mini-review on the movie version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Awesome!

David Yates, director, and Michael Goldenberg, screen writer, not only have taken the longest book and turned it into the shortest of the movies so far (which you've probably already read somewhere else if you're a fan), but they've heightened the tension and action. I loved the book because it showed the characters becoming the people they would be. They made the choices that would impact them in the final two installments. But a lot of the internal struggles were--how to say it?--pounded home.

So how did the movie deal shorten the book so much but maintain the key elements?

By using the medium. We can see the character's reactions on screen. It helps that the actors are older and have become decent actors. But by using what's on the screen, a scene near the end in Dumbledore's office that goes on for pages in the book is handled in a couple lines in the movie. Another big part of the book is also handled in a few carefully constructed scenes or lines within scenes that focus on something else. The issue (and this isn't a spoiler) in the book is Mrs. Weasley thinking that Siruis is confusing Harry with James, Harry's father and Siruis's best friend. It is brought up several times in the book. Not so in the book. But you get it anyway.

What does all this mean to me as a writer? That I need to work on writing in such a way that it doesn't take pages to convey an emotion. To pick the right words to make my point without beating people over the head. I'm not saying Rowling does that, but Books 4 & 5 could be tighter. And I say that with love, to quote Jenny.

Maybe I do need to write some more short stories. I struggle with the format. I always try to cram in too many characters (a recurring issue with my writing) and too many plot points for the words allotted. I've avoided flash fiction like the plague. It might be just what I need.

Is there something you other writers do to help you hone that skill of conveying a lot with just a few words? I'd love to hear about it. And then steal it.


Ali said...

Yes, write short stories! More and more, in the group I keep wanting to tell folks who start out with a novel that they should write some short stories before they revise. Short stories are so useful because of what you mention, and because they give you a place to practice your technique without a huge time investment.

That said, flash fiction is just the same, but you have to get even tighter, which means it's even harder. Embrace the challenge, Deb. :) Along those lines, poetry is excellent practice for precision also.

After I do a poetry workshop, I always become that much more aware of the impact one word can have. Ya know, since you're so fond of challenges, I'm going to propose one: pick up a book of poems, read them, analyze them, then write some of your own. See what happens to your prose afterward.

Debbie said...

I KNEW you were going to say that! There's a reason for your nickname. ;-)

That being said, you're right, of course. I may have some down time this week. I'll let you know what happens.

Ali said...

Muah ha ha! The demon strikes again :) Let me know how your poetry book hunt goes. If you can't find anything you like, I have a book I can bring for you on Friday.

Debbie said...

Ali, I have some at home. But thanks. Can you let Nicole and Mary know we're on for Friday? Usual place and time unless someone has a suggestion. I STILL don't have Yahoo! Getting just a little testy.

Ali said...

Yeah, I think I can. I'll just have to check if I have their e-mails.