Yesterday, at Balticon, I had the honor of sitting on a panel that discussed how to adapt fiction to stage or screen.
One of the questions the moderator asked was to define the nuts and bolts of doing that sort of adaptation. One of the other panel members said that you needed to only the important parts of the prose and turn those into the movie or stage play.
I agreed and my follow-up comment was, “And you had better do that with your prose too. Write only what is essential.”
That got me thinking. Is it true? Is brevity the optimal method of communicating? And if it is, how do we as communicators learn to do that? Is that economy of expression a natural activity? Do we inherently know how to be brief or are we more likely to describe the locations, feelings, and actions? Are we more inclined to “set the stage” as it were?
And why is it important to be brief? What if we feel we need to describe the accoutrements of what happens in addition to the action because without that prose, the entire picture won’t come across? What do we do then? And which is more important? Is it more important for us to render the story we envision or for the audience to paint that canvas in their own minds? If our words/movies/plays are the brushes and paint, should the audience paint what we tell them (because we’ve described it perfectly and fully) or should they know the theme and layer the colors and shapes in their own way? Which will give them a fuller experience?
As I have developed as a writer and communicator, I have embraced the importance of relevance. If we want to communicate a lesson, a movie, prose, or any message, its relevance is key. We must acknowledge that our audience will learn it better and experience it more fully when they discover its pertinence to their own lives. So, we need to guide them to that place, and that, my friends, is the key to it all. Once we have them there, they are with us for the rest of the ride.
The crucial point? We can convey relevance with a word, a look, or a touch.
To use a current buzzword, when we communicate, we paint word pictures. This happens when we write books, stories, movies, and plays. It also happens when we talk to our partners about relationship issues, to our friends about our day, and to anyone about most everything.
My tendency is to talk and talk and pre-justify why I am saying what I am saying. I’m realizing all those words aren’t necessary. The audience isn’t and has never been stupid. All I need to do is to give the main point and let them picture it.* If they have questions, they can ask. And that dialogue is the best thing ever. It is how authors connect with their readers, moviemakers connect with their viewers, and people connect with one another.
That connection, that two way street communication, is what I believe will help us grow, learn, and thrive.
Sending you all my love.
*My husband will be the first to tell you I’m still learning this point. I struggle with wanting to explain everything all at once. In part, I think that is because I want to be sure I forestall any head-scratching. I figure if I lay everything out first, I will ease the other person’s potential discomfort. Not so, but it is something I am still learning.