How Does Your Storytelling Medium Matter?

Day 15, and ten more to go! These introductions may be getting repetitive (yes, they already were), but I hope your excitement increases as each passing day goes by. We return to analysis once again, which seems to be the norm for this week as it were. I hope the title caught your eye, and perhaps you may be a bit confused as to what it entails.

Every story can be told in various ways. You have a book, a film, a television series, a comic, a graphic novel, a video game, and even an audio drama. While there may be some similarities within these (such as films and television shows) they all bring their own flavours with differences that may be more drastic than you think they are. A great way to highlight these is to look at adaptations, so why don’t we start there?

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The Hobbit is an excellent novel, but an uneven and cluttered movie with an impressive budget. While there may be three films, this is ultimately like The Lord of the Rings: it is one work with three parts. Of course, the question is how well the book translates into a film.

Right off the bat, you will notice changes between a novel and a film adaptation, which is inevitable. Inner thoughts of characters have no great way to be shown in a film, one cannot sit through a six-hour movie, and pacing must be much faster and consistent as a movie is not meant to be put down and picked up on later. There are issues with The Hobbit that are exclusive to the film, such as the lack of focus and misguided effort for an increase in scale.

Of course, actors are a huge limitation when it comes to films compared to novels. As the embodiment of a character, they need to be the role and not simply play it. On the other hand, extra atmosphere added by visuals and music can add to the experience in ways that novels are unable to. There are disparities between these two storytelling mediums, and one is not better than the other. The argument of ‘the book is better than the film’ is an overused and trite one, as a novel has too many aspects that cannot be translated to a film.

Some other instances include extreme violence, exotic locations, impossible feats, and stories that have no action or direct plot. Movies can be extremely intelligent and subtle, but books can pull off plots of nothingness and make it flourish.

As a certain television series based on a novel has shown, this is another medium that can be used to great effect as well. The suspense of cliffhanger endings is alleviated by weekly episodes, and self-contained plotlines can be both simplistic and deep in meaning. A continuous plot can tell a more grand tale than films can as well, but issues once again come from budgetary constraint and of course, cancellations. As I said in my first blog post, please bring back Firefly. 

Video games may seem like a time waster for those that take stories very seriously, but they can tell stories that do not work for the above mediums. A video game can have its action directed at the pace of the player, and stories that form around player choices can also exist in a meaningful way. If a novel consisted of long action scenes like in video games, it would have trouble with variety and keeping the interest of the reader. And for movie adaptations for video games… They do not have as great the means to tell their stories as their source counterparts do.

Comic books and graphic novels may seem like the same, but the difference is like that between films and television shows. Comic books have a heavy emphasis on action and are more minimalist in design. They rely on visuals to tell a tale, with dialogue and the occasional yet brief infobox as well. These stories can still be deep and impactful, but the reliance on good art is essential to not break immersion. This is perhaps the perfect combination of static images and storytelling, and a lot can be done with comics.

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When telling a story, look for what kind of story you have in mind. Action, subtleties, and visual elements can all have essential implications on what medium to use, and one story does not necessarily translate well into all of them. A novel’s plot is too rigid for a video game, and the visual elements of a comic book are lost in translation to a book. With this in mind, keep an eye out whenever watching an adaptation at the movie theater. You do not need to compare it to the original novel (do not be this person) but make sure to keep an eye out for what is uneven and does not take the ideals of a film to the fullest of extent.

Of course, keep an eye out for tomorrow’s longer post. Today’s could have had a lot more depth in my discussion, but I hope you enjoyed this brief look nonetheless. This week of storytelling analysis will definitely not be the theme for next week, but I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless. School is almost out as well, and posts will retain lengths that are not as bite-sized.

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