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.



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