Storytelling In Books vs Storytelling On TV – A Ramble

One of the most surprising things I’ve noticed since I got back into reading regularly a few months ago was how differently I started thinking about the stories of the few TV shows I still occasionally find time to watch. More importantly, I also started to think about why TV and novels tell stories in such vastly different ways.

A few days before I wrote this article, I noticed that a gloriously silly TV show from the late 1990s/early 2000s called “Relic Hunter” was being repeated on TV. So, I set up the DVR and rationed myself to one episode per day. Yet, my reaction to seeing it again was totally different to when I first discovered a few episodes of this show on DVD in 2014.

Compared to the novels I’d been reading, the storylines in “Relic Hunter” seemed even sillier than before. Things often seemed to happen totally randomly, there were lots of fortunate coincidences etc… Yet, it was still really fun to watch.

This reminded me of something that I’d also noticed in the few episodes of a US detective show called “NCIS” I’ve seen over the past few months. Whilst a detective novel might devote hundreds of pages to the careful, logical investigation of a mystery – “NCIS” will often have the clues fall into place quickly, neatly and easily. Yet, it’s still really fun to watch.

But why is this kind of compressed, contrived storytelling so much fun to watch? I mean, books offer much deeper, richer and fuller stories. So, why are TV show stories still so incredibly fun to watch?

In short, TV show storylines are a bit like watching someone speedrun a videogame – you get to see an expert player going through a series of complex, dramatic, challenging events in an impressively quick time. It’s a demonstration of skill. This sort of thing is extremely compelling to watch.

TV show storylines are also a little bit like listening to a heavy metal song called “Bridges Will Burn” by Iron Fire. The lyrics of this fast-paced song tell an epic fantasy story in an impressively concise and fast way. For example, a a single verse might cover events that take tens or hundreds of pages to describe in a novel.

Yes, the novel would probably be deeper, more atmospheric and a much fuller experience. Yet, Iron Fire’s song feels a lot more impressive and spectacular because it expertly runs through all of this stuff in a ridiculously short time. It’s like these epic events are an ordinary, mundane routine to the narrator.

In other words, it expertly gives the impression of a story rather than telling a full, proper story. Television often does something similar to this, and it’s compelling because it not only makes the characters look like experts, but because the audience feels like they’ve absorbed a full story in a short amount of time (which makes them feel like expert audience members). So, storytelling in TV shows is more about evoking the feeling of expertise.

On the other hand, storytelling in novels actually requires expertise from both the reader and the writer. It also rewards this expertise too. This makes, say, grappling with a complex, long novel feel really satisfying. It also makes blazing your way through a fast-paced thriller novel at light speed feel satisfying too. Reading fiction requires you to reconstruct characters, locations etc.. using your imagination and to keep track of more complex stories, themes etc.. too. In other words, it is a skill and you get to show it off to yourself when you read a novel 🙂

In short, the difference between storytelling in novels and TV is that one makes the viewer feel like an expert, and the other makes the reader feel like an expert. It’s a subtle difference, but a really important one. It’s like the difference between watching a video of someone speedrunning a videogame and actually playing the videogame yourself.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Three Tips For Enjoying “Boring” Films, TV Shows, Games etc..

One of the interesting things that I’ve noticed over the past decade or two is that I’ve gradually become more interested in creative works that I would have considered “boring” when I was younger.

Whether it’s the deliberately slow pacing of modern films/TV shows like “Blade Runner 2049” and the 2017 “Twin Peaks” TV series (which I got on DVD as a Christmas present last year), whether it’s slower-paced games in the “point and click” genre etc… I’ve found that things I’d once have considered “boring” are much more interesting than they might initially seem.

But, how can you learn to enjoy creative works like this? Here are a few tips.

1) Work out why it is “boring”: Simply put, good “boring” creative works are slow-paced or uneventful for a good reason.

This is either because it gives the audience time to think about what is happening or because it gives the audience time to appreciate things like the atmosphere, visual elements, the characters etc..

A “boring” slow pace could also be there for the sake of emotional contrast, suspense or something like that. Kind of like how music sounds more dramatic because it also contains silence as well as noise.

Likewise, boredom can be used to add a sense of realism to a creative work. After all, everyday life is a boring, humdrum thing most of the time.

Artists, writers, directors, game developers etc… will sometimes include some of this boredom in order to show that their story is a more realistic (and immersive) one. Once you see it this way, then “boring” scenes can be a lot more understandable.

But, whatever the reason, there is probably a good reason for why a creative work is “boring”. If you can remember this, then you’ll enjoy these things more.

2) Read more: Although I don’t read nearly as much as I used to [Edit: No prizes for guessing what I rediscovered a week or so after preparing this article. Expect regular book reviews to start later this month], one of the things that changed my attitude towards “boring” creative works was reading a lot when I was a teenager.

But, why does reading matter? Simply put, reading gently gets you used to stories being told at a slightly slower pace.

Even the most fast-paced thriller novel still needs to take the time to introduce the characters and the premise. It’ll tell a more complex story than the average movie. It’ll be something that will demand that you spend 4-6 hours reading it. And, you’ll probably enjoy it. So, reading more (even in more fast-paced genres) is a great way to get used to slower-paced films, games etc…

3) Remember, it’s about the journey: One important thing to remember about “boring” creative works is that the most important part often isn’t the story, but everything else. I’m talking about things like the atmosphere, the narrative voice, the visual style, the underlying ideas etc…

In other words, these things are more about the journey than the destination.

A good cinematic example is probably the first “Blade Runner” film. The basic story of this film is just a simple detective thriller story. But that isn’t what makes it a brilliant film.

It’s a brilliant film because of the fact that it takes place in an intriguingly mysterious futuristic world which also looks stunningly beautiful too. It’s a brilliant film because of the fact that you notice something new about it every time you see it. It’s a brilliant film because of all of the thematic/philosophical/moral complexity hiding behind the simple story. I could go on for hours, but it’s a brilliant film because of everything other than the basic story.

In short, if you find a creative work to be “boring”, then try focusing on something other than the story. The story the creative work is telling might not be the main reason why it was made.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Four Reasons Why Some Creative Works Become Better With Time

Well, for today, I thought that I’d look at why some older creative works can seemingly become better with time. This was something that I noticed when I happened to re-listen to Iron Maiden’s “The Final Frontier” album from 2010 a while before writing this article. When this album was originally released, I really liked a few songs from it but didn’t quite consider it to be one of Iron Maiden’s better albums.

But, a few years later, it seems like a considerably better album than I’d originally thought that it was. So, I thought that I’d look at a few possible reasons why some creative works can seemingly become better with the passage of time.

1) Hype and expectations: Carrying on with the example I used earlier, Iron Maiden albums are one of the few things that I tend to buy when they’re still “new”. When a new Iron Maiden album is released, it’s an incredibly exciting time. There’s a lot of expectations and pre-release information (and the occasional music video) on the internet. The same sort of thing is probably true for anything made by your favourite musicians, writers, game developers etc..

One of the advantages of revisiting things that have stopped being new (or looking for older creative works) is that they aren’t surrounded by lots of hype and expectations. In other words, it’s easier to look at these things on their own merits. If something is good, but different, then this is easier to see when your mind isn’t clouded by hype and anticipation.

It’s also easier to see these things as one stage in a band’s, novelist’s or game franchise’s creative development when you can also see later things that have been made by the same people. Being able to put a creative work in context can sometimes make it seem even better as a result (either because you can see hints of older works or newer works in it).

2) Nostalgia and historical curiosity: This is a fairly obvious one, but looking at older creative works can be a great way to “travel back in time” to better parts of our lives or to interesting parts of the past. This alone can make some creative works seem a lot better than they probably were at the time.

For me, a good example of this is an American TV show from the 1990s called “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman“. I saw at least two episodes of this on the BBC when I was a child. But, I considered it to be somewhat cheesy. It wasn’t a bad program, but it didn’t really impress me as much as other TV shows of the time did.

Yet, during a “1990s nostalgia” phase late last year and earlier this year, I ended up getting most of the show on DVD. This time round, it seemed to sum up everything wonderful about the 1990s. The fashions! The set design! The production values! The optimistic attitudes! The guest stars! The humour! The gloriously silly storylines! I could go on. But, the show seems to work a lot better as a “retro” historical artefact than it did when it was actually “modern”.

So, yes, when something goes from being current to being “a way to step back into the past” or even “a way to escape from the present day for a while”, it will generally seem better as a result.

3) You’re older: Following on from my last point, if you revisit a creative work several years after you first encountered it, then you aren’t the same person you were then. You’ve got more experience, you’re more intelligent and your tastes might be very slightly different.

As such, you’re more likely to see things that your younger self dismissed as “boring” or “crap” in a slightly different way. You’re more likely to pick up nuances or themes in a creative work that your younger self might have missed. You’re more likely to be able to empathise more with some characters than you were before. You’re more likely to enjoy things like slower-paced storytelling, philosophical depth or narrative complexity.

Of course, this sort of thing can cut both ways. Things that seemed really cool when you were younger can seem trite, superficial and/or embarassing when you’re slightly older. But, even so, it will allow you to enjoy some creative works significantly more than you did when you were younger.

4) Modern culture: This one is a bit cynical, but one reason why creative works that seemed “mediocre” when they were new can seem “amazing” when they’re a bit older can be because current culture has got worse.

When this sort of thing happens then anything from a time that you consider to be a “golden age” gets an almost instant upgrade. After all, it’s better than the modern stuff by comparison. A good example of this can probably be seen with many computer and video games.

Even slightly “mediocre” games from the past can seem better when compared to everything I’ve seen and read about their modern counterparts. For example, even the crappiest 1990s first-person shooter game will still include things like non-linear level design, imaginative weapon designs, a focus on single-player gameplay etc.. But, from everything I’ve heard about FPS games from this decade, many of them seem to be linear, militaristic, simplified, multiplayer-focused things that focus more on fancy graphics than enjoyable gameplay.

So, yes, if one of your favourite genres of entertainment has gone downhill in recent years, then even mediocre things from the past can start to look like masterpieces.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

[OLD VERSION] Mini Review: “Swanky Moppets” (Mod/TC For “Ultimate Doom”/ “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

2017 Artwork Swanky Moppets Doom mod review sketch

[Note: I write these articles fairly far in advance of publication. And, between writing and posting this review/first impressions article, an updated version of this mod (now called “Gloom Busters”) has apparently been released. So, this review is more of a historical curio, and it is NOT a review of the mod in it’s current state.]

Well, it’s been a while since I reviewed anything “Doom”-related, so I thought that I’d take a quick look at a very unique mod/TC for all of the classic “Doom” games called “Swanky Moppets“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this mod. Likewise, at the time of writing, I’ve only had the chance to play this mod for 2-4 hours at most -so, this is more of a “first impressions” article than anything else.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Swanky Moppets”:

Screenshot_Doom_20160821_121604

The besy way to describe “Swanky Moppets” is that it’s kind of like a cross between those “Purple Ronnie” cartoons that were inexplicably popular during the 1990s, “Chex Quest” and the old “Commander Keen” games. It’s also literally the polar opposite of “Brutal Doom“. But, at the same time, it’s also it’s own unique thing as well. And it’s hilarious! Here’s the story for the game:

The "Don't cark it!" part still makes me laugh :)

The “Don’t cark it!” part still makes me laugh 🙂

Seriously, I can’t overstate how funny this mod is. Yes, most of the humour is on the subtle side – but it’s always great to see a modern “Doom” mod that doesn’t try to be gritty or serious. This is a mod that’s about classic 1990s style fun, humour, personality and innovation. It’s totally and utterly silly in the best sense of the word.

For example, you’ll find a disposable camera (anyone remember those?), which you can use to take selfie photos with. Although this is a fun novelty, after taking about 10-20 photos, you’ll find that you’ve somehow broken the space-time continuum and have frozen time for about 30 seconds or so (possibly more). You’ll also have goth-vision too!

My whole life is a darkroom... one, big, dark room.

My whole life is a darkroom… one, big, dark room.

Plus, one of the other weapons is a badass motorbike with flames painted on it! Yes! Just yes!

Born to be wild!

Born to be wild!

Likewise, all of the well-animated weapons in this mod have a really cartoonish look to them and they’ll often cause large, sparkly explosions when fired. Seriously, this is one of those things that has to be seen to be believed – but the whole screen will often literally be filled with sparkles during firefights:

Yay! Remember when weapons in computer games used to be this joyous and whimsical? Yes, I miss those days too!

Yay! Remember when weapons in computer games used to be this joyous and whimsical? Yes, I miss those days too!

Another cool thing about this mod is the sheer number of weapons on offer – I’ve played it for a couple of hours and I still haven’t seen all of them. Yes, many of them are various types of cartoonish laser guns, but they also often include alternative fire modes too – which is a really cool touch.

However, the visual changes included in this mod are something of a mixed bag. Although the replacements for many of the in-game objects are quirky, funny and interesting – the wall textures can sometimes include clashing colours and/or look slightly too bright.

I guess that this is part of the “look” of the mod, but I’d have preferred it if the mod had stuck to one or two basic colour palettes and had included a balanced mixture of light and dark wall textures in order to give the levels more visual contrast. Still, the visual effects that appear when using certain power-ups make up for this:

Yes, WHY didn't the original "Doom II" look more like this?

Yes, WHY didn’t the original “Doom II” look more like this?

Yes, it might make your eyes bleed if you look at it too long. But, palm trees, sparkles and 1980s colours!!!!!!!!!!! :)

Yes, it might make your eyes bleed if you look at it too long. But, palm trees, sparkles and 1980s colours!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

Plus, if you play “Ultimate Doom” with this mod, then you’ll be treated to a really cool animated screen when you finish each level (in the first episode at least, I haven’t looked at the others with this mod).

Although “Doom II” and “Final Doom” just display a static image at the end of each level, it’s still really cool to see an animated completion screen in “Doom”. Seriously, I don’t think that I’ve seen one of these before!

The enemy design in this mod is, in a word, superb! All of the other characters have a distinctive, cartoonish aesthetic – and you’ll actually feel kind of bad about shooting at the adorable cast of characters and creatures that you’ll encounter.

This mod is wonderfully cartoonish.

This mod is wonderfully cartoonish.

Still, in classic “Commander Keen” fashion – the other characters don’t actually die when you shoot them, they just kind of sit down and grin at you. The creatures, on the other hand, explode into a delightful shower of sparkles.

Awww... Aren't they adorable? Now, let's turn them into sparkles!

Awww… Aren’t they adorable? Now, let’s turn them into sparkles!

As for the music and sound design, it’s surprisingly good. A lot of the music seems to consist of cool remixes of the classic “Doom” music and they can actually sound surprisingly dramatic.

As for the sound design, this mod is filled with precisely the kind of “Commander Keen”-style bleeping and zapping sounds that you would expect.

Yes, this sounds pretty much EXACTLY like you'd expect it to sound.

Yes, this sounds pretty much EXACTLY like you’d expect it to sound.

All in all, this mod is fun, unique and very 1990s in the best possible way. It hearkens back to a time when games were joyously silly and even tried to make the player laugh sometimes. It reminds me of a time when games each had their own unique “personality” and aesthetic.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a four.

Can Comics And Fiction Do This Cool Thing That TV Shows Can?

2016 Artwork Art and actors

As regular readers of this site probably know, I’m more of a TV fan than a film buff. One of the interesting things about watching American TV shows in a few specific genres (eg: the sci-fi, detective, thiller and/or horror genres) is that there’s a group of actors and actresses that appear in multiple shows in these genres. Since TV is a lot less celebrity-obsessed than film is, there’s a relatively unknown group of people who turn up in numerous TV shows.

For example, a couple of days before I wrote this article earlier this year, Channel 5 showed two episodes of “NCIS” on subsequent days. One of these episodes guest-starred Stephanie Jacobsen from “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” and “Battlestar Galactica: Razor”. The other episode guest-starred Jim Beaver, which immediately prompted me to think “Oh my god! It’s Bobby from ‘Supernatural’! This is so cool!” as soon as I saw him.

I could probably go on about this sort of thing for a while. I mean, I could probably write an entire article just about how many times I’ve seen Mark A. Sheppard appear in various TV shows. Seriously, he’s appeared in quite a few of the cool TV shows that I’ve seen.

It’s always interesting to see someone familiar playing a totally different character. Although their character might be different, it’s still a little bit like seeing a cameo appearance from one of your favourite characters from another TV show. In fact, it takes some fairly good acting/writing for the audience to accept that they’re a totally different character.

A cool example of this would probably be when the one and only Claudia Black joined the cast of “Stargate SG-1” after “Farscape” had finished. Although the show contains a few references to her character from “Farscape”, she plays a totally different (and much funnier) character in “Stargate SG-1” and this is quickly shown through excellent writing and acting.

But, what does any of this have to do with prose fiction and/or comics? Well, it doesn’t – that’s kind of the point.

Because characters in fiction and comics are just that, characters, you don’t really get these kinds of moments when reading comics or novels. Yes, not having to hire a group of actors/actresses every time you want to tell a story is one of the advantages that comics/fiction have over TV/film, but it also means that writers miss out on the coolness factor of hiring someone who the audience is already familiar with.

So, I was wondering if comics and fiction could at least do something similar?

I’m guessing that this is probably a lot easier to do with comics than it is with prose fiction. After all, since comics are a visual medium – all you really have to do is to make sure that one of your new characters looks a little bit like one of the characters from your previous comics. Yes, you need to include a few visual differences (so that your audience isn’t confused), but it’s fairly easy to do.

However, this sort of thing is probably a lot more difficult to do in prose fiction, since it isn’t a visual medium. I guess that one possible way to do this in prose fiction is to make one of your characters have a slightly similar personality to one of your previous characters. Even so, this is probably quite difficult to do well. If the two characters are too similar, your audience will probably think that you’ve run out of ideas. But, if they’re too different, then your audience probably won’t see the connection.

Then again, if you’re writing prose fiction, then there aren’t really any rules against having your characters appear in multiple stories. So, I guess that writers have an added advantage here, since they don’t need to go down the route of using similar characters, when they can just use the same characters.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Think Of Your Comic As A TV Show – A Ramble

2016 Artwork TV shows and comics are similar

Well, I still seem to be in the mood for wiring about comics at the moment, so I thought that I’d ramble about the similarities between comics and scripted TV shows. Although most of these similarities are pretty obvious, there’s a good reason why I’m pointing some of them out that I’ll explain in the second half of this article.

Anyway, even though comics and scripted TV shows are obviously very different from each other on a technical level, they also share quite a few interesting similarities.

The most obvious similarity is that, like scripted drama shows, comics often tell an episodic story. Whether it’s a webcomic that updates twice a week or a traditional print comic that is published weekly or monthly, comics are one of oldest forms of visual episodic storytelling.

Likewise, just like how many TV shows that are collected into DVD/ Blu-Ray/ Video On Demand etc.. boxsets after they’ve been broadcast, traditional print comics are often collected into trade paperbacks.

Even traditional daily newspaper cartoons (eg: “Nemi“, “Dilbert“, “Garfield” etc..) aren’t that different from TV shows. Although each comic strip might be a self-contained joke, they often share a common cast of characters and – if you put a month’s worth of these comics together, you’d end up with something vaguely resembling a comedy sketch show or possibly even a sitcom episode.

The similarities between comics and scripted TV shows can be seen by the fact that, when a popular TV show gets cancelled prematurely, it’ll sometimes be continued in comic format. This has happened with quite a few of Joss Whedon’s TV shows (eg: “Buffy”, “Angel”, “Firefly” etc…), but it’s happened with other TV shows (especially in the sci-fi genre) too. It’s very telling that when it comes to finishing a TV show’s story on a lower budget and in a different medium, comics are always the first choice.

But, you probably know all of this stuff already, so why am I mentioning it?

Well, the chances are that you’ll never get to produce a high-quality scripted TV show. Ok, streaming sites like Youtube have made it much easier for people to publish videos, not to mention that digital video editing technology is apparently a lot more accessible and affordable than it used to be.

But, producing a TV quality scripted drama show (especially in effects-heavy genres like the sci-fi genre) on a limited budget is still something that many people would probably struggle with.

And, if you’re a television fan like I am, this is a really depressing fact. Still, even though you might never make TV shows – you can certainly make the next best thing. Like this self-contained comic featuring the characters from both another self-contained comic and a long-running comic series of mine:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 3" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 3” By C. A. Brown

Comics are relatively easy to make and don’t require a huge budget. Yes, you’ll need to put in quite a bit of practice if you want the art to look good but, you’d be surprised at how simple comic art can be. Seriously, the format itself pretty much requires slightly simplified art – given that you’re basically making lots of drawings within a relatively short period of time.

Not only that, in comics, the writing matters more than the art quality does – if you don’t believe me, just look at a very popular webcomic called “XKCD“, where all of the characters are literally stick figures.

With comics, you can do pretty much everything that TV shows can do, but on a fraction of the budget. Not only that, you can actually do more than TV shows can. For example, you can do things like directly showing your character’s thoughts, you can use unusual panel layouts etc…

Yes, like any storytelling medium, you’ll need to do quite a bit of practice before you get even vaguely good at writing and/or illustrating comics (here’s one of my badly-drawn and badly-written episodic comic series from 2013 to show you what I mean). But, if you have a vague dream of making a TV show but also know that you’ll never be able to make it, why not turn it into a comic instead?

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Six Reasons Why Books Are Better Than TV Or Film

2014 Artwork Books Are Better Sketch

Well, I’ve recently started watching season three of “Game Of Thrones” (and, yes, I’ll probably write a review of it at some point in the near future).

But, unlike with the first two seasons of this excellent TV show, I actually read all of the novel that this season was based on (“A Storm of Swords” by George R. R. Martin) before I watched season three.

This meant that I could compare these two things in a way that I hadn’t really been able to do before and, surprisingly, I preferred the books to the TV show. Anyway, this made me think about the differences between prose fiction and TV or film and why books are better.

I don’t know if I’m really saying anything particularly new or groundbreaking here, but it seemed like an interesting topic for today’s article. So, I thought that I’d give you six reasons why books are better than TV or film:

1) Length: One of the problems with TV and film is that you only have a fixed amount of time to tell a story. Whether it’s a two-hour film or a three to twenty hour long TV series, the amount of storytelling time available to the director is strictly limited. Not only that, everything that happens on the screen has to happen in real-time too.

Books don’t really have any of these limitations. Yes, there are probably some limits on the length of individual books, but there seems to be a trend towards more longer books being published these days (eg: a couple of decades ago, the average paperback novel was about 200-300 pages long, these days it’s probably more like 300-500). So, this is probably much less of an issue than it used to be.

Not only that, people can read books at their own pace, in a way that they can’t do when watching a film or a TV show. Plus, the only measure of how long a book takes to read is your own level of enthusiasm for it and/or your level of reading ability.

It’s also a lot easier for writers to control the rate that time progresses in their story in a way that film-makers just can’t do. For example, a writer can cover two years in the space of a single page or spend ten pages covering what happens in just one minute. However, in a film or TV show, if something takes five minutes to happen, then it will take five minutes to watch.

2) Depth: Books have a lot more depth than films or TV shows do. What do I mean by this? Well, with a film you’re limited to what you can show on the screen and what your audience can see and hear. That’s all.

There is no such limitation with prose fiction – you can describe what your characters are thinking, you can describe the settings in an almost microscopic of detail and you can even describe what your characters are feeling too.

In short, with films, we only get to see what the camera sees. In books, we get to experience whatever was going through the god-like imagination of the author when they were writing their story.

3) Censorship: This was probably the main reason why I read so much when I was a teenager. In the UK, mainland Europe and the US at least, there is thankfully next to no censorship of literature.

There are no patronising age limits on books and there is no cabal of moralistic old men and women perching over them and ordering parts of the story to be censored in order to achieve a particular rating. If you want to read a great classic of 20th century literature when you are a teenager (eg: “Naked Lunch” by William S. Burroughs or “Crash” by J. G. Ballard) you can just go into a shop and buy it or go into a library and borrow it, no questions asked. This is how it should be.

Whereas, if you want to see a great classic of 20th century film-making when you’re a teenager (eg: Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction”), you’ll probably either have to lie about your age convincingly, find someone else who can lend you a copy of it or find someone who will buy a copy on your behalf.

Books, thankfully, have none of these pointlessly patronising artificial barriers to entry.

So, what does this lack of censorship mean when it comes to storytelling? Well, it means that horror novels can be much gorier and scarier than horror movies, it means that erotic novels can be far more explicit than erotic films and it means that thriller novels can be way more action-packed than thriller movies.

Seriously, there’s always some silly article in the papers every once in a while about how teenagers aren’t reading enough books. Well, maybe if someone let them in on this little secret, then they might start reading a few more books…..

4) Budget: Although I have mixed feelings about his books (they’re very compelling, but they’re not that well-written on a technical level), Matthew Reilly has made an absolutely excellent point about why books are a lot better than films can ever be. I can’t remember the full quote, but he talks about how he can use the “unlimited budget of the imagination” when he is writing his books.

The problem with film and TV is that, in order to show anything on the screen – you actually have to make it first (either in real life or on a computer). This costs money – a lot of money. As such, things are often limited in films in order to save or conserve money.

This is a complete non-issue with books – all of the “special effects” in a novel are completely free, all of the large and detailed settings cost nothing to build and you can include as many characters as you like without worrying about having to pay their salaries.

I mean, you can even see this in things like mega-budget TV shows. I mean, although I love the “Game Of Thrones” TV show, one of the things I noticed after reading the books that this show is based on is just how… well… small and ordinary the settings looked when compared to the what I’d imagined that they looked like when I was reading the books.

5) Cancellation: Yes, books can go out of print and publishers can stop publishing fiction series but, because the costs of publishing a book (especially since the invention of e-books) are a lot lower than producing and distributing a TV series, fiction series are a lot less likely to be cancelled prematurely than TV shows are.

After all, in order for a TV show to keep running – it both has to please a capricious cabal of faceless executives at a production company and it has to draw in hundreds of thousands or even millions of new viewers every season. I mean, if the viewing figures for a TV show are falling, then it’s likely to be cancelled – even if millions of people are still watching it every week.

With books, this is much less of an issue. Yes, large publishers still want to sell lots of copies before allowing a series to continue. But their expectations are a lot more modest and realistic for the simple reason that it costs less to produce and distribute books than it does for TV shows.

As such, if you have a favourite fiction series, then it is a lot less likely to be cut short prematurely than your favourite TV series will…

6) Co-creation: This is probably the best reason why books are better than film or TV. I am, of course, talking about the fact that the audience is part of the storytelling process in a book. Yes, I’m serious!

When you read a book, every part of the story takes place in your own imagination. Sure, the writer may describe what a character or a setting looks like, but it’s completely up to you what you imagine everything to look like. If you want to imagine that all of the characters look like your favourite actors, then you can. If you want to imagine that the setting of, say, a fantasy novel looks spectacularly epic, then you can.

With films and TV, everything looks like what the director wants it to look like. That’s it. There’s no room for interpretation or imagination, we just get one version of everything and that’s it.

Pretty limiting, right?

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Anyway, I hope that this has been interesting 🙂