The book is better than the film

ghost writer UK

A few years ago, I was at an event where special guests from Google talked about marketing on the internet (yes, actual Google people – not just experts). One of the Google gurus commented how content on the internet would be 80% video within the next 2-3 years. As a writer, I found this a worrying thought, not to mention a sad one.

The fantastic reality within the sad story

A few weeks later, I relayed the story to a video production specialist and asked him about video scriptwriting (thinking I should learn a new trick). He launched into a detailed explanation of various communication preferences and described how some rely on the words themselves, others, like actors, deliver their message through pace and tone, and the real pros ad-lib the essence of the words from page to screen. He described how what a person reads in one way might speak to the listener’s ears another way altogether, so scripts often become no more than a guideline. By this point, my mind had wandered off, distracted by an exciting thought!

Some people will always love the written word more than the visual medium of film and video because they crave fuel for their imagination. They don’t want artistic interpretation – they want to own the stories themselves. How often have you heard someone say ‘the book is better than the film’ or bemoaned a movie missing a large chunk of the book’s plot because its Director had different ideas?

Leave room for your imagination

Now I am not about to argue with Google over the future of the internet; a quick clarificatory search suggests the prediction was right on track. But whether 20% or 2% of cyberspace is all the written word can afford, that still adds up to billions of words to fire up a person’s imagination. And as far as I can tell, physical, printed books are still pretty ubiquitous throughout the world.

You see, I believe words can paint a thousand pictures, and poetic rhetoric or beautifully presented prose can move an audience far more than any movie. The written word leaves room for the reader’s imagination to interpret what they are consuming. It provides an insight into the writer’s thoughts, intentions and imaginations without forcing the reader to see the things they describe in precisely the same way.

Wise words can influence generations, change minds, create new worlds and unlock powerful visions hidden deep within a reader’s mind, heart and soul.

Bear with me here because I love a good action movie, rom-com or funny YouTube clip as much as anyone. But my conversation with the video production guy made me appreciate that film is about the audience engaging with someone else’s version of the story. It is what they see, not what your imagination could conjure, as it connects with the thoughts and intents of the writer’s art.

Long live YouTube, movies, and video marketing

And so to my final thought on this happy story of the ancient art of written storytelling, learning to live in harmony with the modern visual version:

The less there is of anything, the more people appreciate it for its scarcity. So as the written word becomes less of a feature on our computer screens and tablets, surely its value will increase. Maybe this is good news for writers and lovers of the written word after all. It could even be fantastic news. Because instead of the reams of boring, keyword-optimised, poorly planned and despairingly dull content that inhabits the internet today, it might just favour the whims of the beautifully worded once more.

You never know, printed books might even outsell their Kindle cousins again one day.