Of forumulas and formats and one really awesome Irish film by Jenny O'Connell

This is an easy blog to write - I don't think I've ever watched a movie and thought it was better than the book. That said, I'm not a movie person in general. The last time I actually went to the theater to see a film was with my daughter and friends to see Mama Mia 2 (for the record, I am a big Mama Mia fan). Before that... I can't even remember the last time I stepped foot in a movie theater. I can be pressured to watch a movie at home on Netflix, but it's not my go-to activity.

So, since I'm not a big movie watcher, how does a blog theme of "book-to-movie" relate to me? It makes me think of my very good friend Grace, a screenwriter. Years ago when I lived in Chicago, which is where Grace is located, she taught me how screenwriters write. The three-part structure of screenwriting and the "formula" that writers use. Down to the page number. The idea that there was a formula one could use to write blew me away, mostly because I'm not a "trained" writer - didn't study it in college, haven't attended workshops and or joined writers' groups. So the idea that there was a "template" to writing was crazy to me, and a little jarring.

Was writing really that simple? Was it all just a forumula? And if so, why did some stories work and some didn't?

Learning how stories are told on screen made me read books differently. It also made me attempt to fit my stories into the formula? I started asking myself, "If this hasn't happened by page 30, am I doing something wrong?" and things like that.

At the end of the day, though, it didn't change how I write and that brings me to why I really prefer books over movies. The format of a movie just doesn't leave room for the nuances you can include in a book. The way you can get inside a character's head instead of just seeing what they're doing on screen, it's what makes me love to read.

Now... I have to plug one of my all-time favorite movies that makes me wish I'd written it. Sing Street. The characters, the dialog, the pace of the film, it's just perfect to me. Would it be the same if it had been a book first and I'd read the story before seeing it on a screen? I don't know. But in this case, I'm glad it was just a film because, to me, it's perfect.


  1. This is so true! I love starting with a formula in order to help give a book direction, then deviating when the book demands it.


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