There are many ways to tell a story.  And it is tempting to think that to know how a narrative can be effectively structured is to know how any narrative can be effectively structured.

It is not, however, true.

What brings this to mind for me (and rather worryingly, because I write both novels and screenplays) is today's Booksquawk review on The Strain, the new novel by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.  Del Toro is a very fun director, and yet the novel evidently (I have not read it myself)...not so much.  The news is disappointing and unsurprising in equal measure.  Every narrative form has its shortcuts, stylizations, and sleight of hand, and there's nothing like trying to translate these tricks into a different format to make the seams show.  Vividly.

I may be hanged from the nearest tree for this, but I don't think Neil Gaiman is as good at writing novels as he is at comics (although I enjoy both efforts of his).  That's no aspersion against him; in many ways, I think the shorter, more constrained forms of comics and screenplays are trickier to work with than novels.  You simply have less time and space in which to make your point.

Comics-to-screenplays seems to work a bit better; and of course David Mamet does splendidly with plays-to-screenplays.  Maybe it's novel-writing that's mostly the odd man out; but then there are a few writers who have managed to pull off both to my idiosyncratic satisfaction.  Dashiell Hammett did just fine!  Although he was impatient with screenplay-writing and only occasionally sat himself down to do a script himself, personally, from soup to nuts -- and his novels were generally short and stylized and plot-driven already.
 
What is that parrot over in the far right column of my blog, and what are its broader intentions with the book in its claws?

I will answer only the first question.  It's the Booksquawk parrot!  Booksquawk is a new book review site with contributions from a TON of authors among whom I'm really honored to be numbered.  We'll be posting a review a day, but for the grand opening special, we've got eleven all at one go.  Shoo, run off and look at them!

My first review there is for Jon Meacham's American Lion -- a book on Andy Jackson, part of my background research for Burning Bright.  (While it looks like Jackson's role in Burning Bright isn't going to be vast, and I probably have more than enough information about him already to write it, he is a fascinating topic of study...so I keep giving myself increasingly thin excuses to read more Jacksonalia.)

Given that all Booksquawk contributors are working writers, it is perhaps not too too surprising that our tastes in reading are broad and cover...pretty much every kind of fiction, non-fiction, and "perplexing what-is-it" that can be imagined.  Topics of reviewerly meditation this week range from the slaying of giant fantasy snakes to the social and political development of post-colonial Africa.  And Jane Austen is popping up all over the place, despite that we didn't review any of her books (well, I guess technically she is listed as one of the authors of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but...I am sure you understand my hesitation to call that her book, heh). 

Our OFFICIAL categories (one per day) are:  general fiction, science fiction/fantasy, non-fiction, anarchy day (where the Bastille is knocked down regularly once a week and anything can come running out of the gates),  young adult, romance/women's fiction, and mystery/thriller.  Go check it out!