No this isn’t the MMA you are looking for
-Spock probably, in Mordor.
Talk about a fun title!! Now in case the title was too vague, which it probably was, I will now explain what I mean by it. Over the history of storytelling, there have been many forms of presenting stories to prospective people, and they have been told in so many different ways. Today we probably think of the different forms of media as written, spoken, visual and combinations of such. However, it gets way more specific when we speak of comics versus novels or TV shows versus movies. How does the medium change the story or the limits of whether adaptation can occur? This is something I am very interested in and as someone who enjoys a variety of different mediums and as a person who loves a good story, I am excited to bring you my very first analysis of the different mediums of storytelling. Medium in this case means, the way the story in told whether it be via the pages of a novel or a comic. Medium can mean a radio drama or a movie. Basically I will try to narrow down the strengths and weaknesses of various forms of storytelling and of course, the most important part is how it effects the ability to tell a good story.
The Radio drama or podcast
Audio and spoken word is one of the oldest forms of storytelling. We love to tell stories to each other for various reasons. In fact, many of the greatest myths and legends are part of our trying to make sense of our world through stories. But storytelling is also something that transcends different generations and can connect all of us together. Now before the radio was a think, there was the noble bard or simply the family member who would tell a story. Even if you couldn’t record things the stories could be told by a group of people in a theater or simply by a father to his son. Now the theater involved visual elements so I will not dwell on it here but elements of theater would come to play in the eventual radio drama. The radio was a magnificent invention and it allowed everyone to hear things from across insane distances. This also allowed regular programming of radio shows and dramas that people could tune in every week to hear adventures of their favorite people. It allowed the president of the United States to communicate with people too. But the regular radio show was a great way to tell longer stories or even groups of shorter stories. Before TV was a thing, this pioneered the techniques that would become so plentiful. Now comics, books, and newspapers were also available for far longer but the radio had certain advantages that books didn’t. First of all, it could be a family activity. Reading is seldom something you can do with another person and audio is a great way to listen to a story together with other people. It also adds the structure of a time to gather with other people to get the next installment. You simply cannot read a book with another person at the same speed and feel connected. However, the radio drama would have the same weaknesses as other mediums such as television. The radio required advertisers and other ways to fund it. They often would have shows with multiple writers and sometimes that would backfire. I would argue that having multiple writers is both a blessing and curse. Sometimes it can help get a story to be streamlined and perfected. Having other people help guide the story can help make a better product. However, there is the rub. Stories are very rarely better simply by being treated as products. The best stories are things that the writer puts his or her heart and soul into. Stories can be accidents but rarely are they accidents where the end product is something that the writer cares very little about. Today this medium lives on via the podcast. The podcast is like radio but it is from the internet and is wonderful. I myself cannot get enough of them and in my mind they can replace actual radio. However, it is worth noting that radio and podcasts are very versatile mediums but they do not have the sheer permeation of other similar mediums. I think this format is best used for anthologies and medium length stories. Theatrical adaptations of books are also a very good choice.
Now this analysis will jump around quite a bit but the central ideas that animated it will remain intact. Basically I want to help people understand why the different ways of telling stories do have fundamental differences that make the transition between them dodgy at best. The structure and method of conveying the story change and therefore you can expect the story to be adapted to best fit the new medium. The most famous truism of book lovers is that the book is always better than the movie. This is often true but it is only true because the book isn’t relying to both visual and audio stimulation to get across the story. The story only requires your eyes or fingers if you are blind, and the imagination does the rest. Pretty much our own subjective interpretation of our favorite novel will always be different then the on screen adaptation. This is why, there are devoted fans who will never be satisfied. However, another thing that effects subjectivity is the order in which you observe your story in two different mediums. If you see a movie before you read the book it changes the perspective a bit. This is also true about comic books. For instance, the notoriously bad Green Lantern movie was hated by critics and comic fans. I liked it though and it is partially my own fault because it was my first introduction to the lantern mythos. However, I also put it to you that I, am often much more okay with lackluster products than other people. I enjoyed bad movies and can agree with criticism and accept other people’s barbs while not letting it effect me. I also saw the Fellowship of the Ring on the big screen before I read it. Now I did finish the trilogy before the two other movies came out but the fellowship of the ring was a movie I liked better than the book. Call me lame if you want but the order changed my perspective. I imagine, the books were far more effective if you read them first because of the style of the writer and the passion of the readers. However, I do make it a point to read the book before the movie whenever I can. Not because I am stubbornly against liking the movie better than the book, but because I like to compare. As I have gotten older I have gotten more understanding about the difficulty in the adaptation. For instance, I hated the on screen adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. For me the book was one of my favorites but the parts of it that I resented not being in the movie were not actually related to the main plot. They were side fluff that I enjoyed for world-building and I understand that the directors had to make choices. The books vary in length and if they attempted to give into fan demands the movies would be terribly long and convuluted. But let’s start with the actual analysis.
Novel vs Short stories
When telling a compelling narrative it is important to have a basic idea of the structure of the story. However, the length of the work is something that changes the structure a great deal. I know that might seem like common sense but it even changes the writing process. For example, people who write shorter stories can actually flex their creative muscles a bit more often in shorter periods of time. It also gives them flexibility of theme, character development and genre. The longer story or novel is supposed to be a self-contained story but it is meant to enrapture the reader and take them on a journey. The pacing matters more when you write a novel because it makes or break your reader’s enjoyment. The novel also increases the ability to create new locations and even create colorful arcs for your protagonists. The more time given, the better you can create a connection to the character. The short story is meant to be self-contained and is more thematic and blunt. It can be subtle too, but a short story has to be concise and structured perfectly in order to be successful in it’s shorter duration. The flexibility in creativity from story to story actually condenses the freedom in the individual stories themselves. Sometimes a short story can include reoccuring characters if the author wants and Sherlock Holmes is a good example of one. The short stories as a whole are able to create a connection to a reoccuring protagonist. The short story may allow an author to try other genres and work with other writers. The ability to create a connection with protagonists is not as important in a short story but the cohesiveness and immersion is just as important. The ability of an author to capture their reader’s attention is super important.
To be continued