Prompt: “Is it easier for skilled authors to manipulate movie viewers or book readers? Why or why not?”
This has more to do with the audience member than the creator. Different people look to fiction for different things. Some come for a beautiful story, some for immaculate world building, and some come simply for classic entertainment. Depending on what kind of work you’re looking for these two creative mediums each offer their own unique magic.
I’ll compare some similarities that I personally look for in these two. The first is being transported to another space. Being taken out of the norm and transported to another setting is something both films and movies do great. The difference is one relies on your senses of sight and hearing to bring to life a digitally or practically created environment, while the other relies on the readers imagination. Now funnily I often find myself remembering the visuals and landscaped of books I read better than that of film. Don’t get me wrong, there are some visuals that only movie magic can create. There are some worlds that have seemingly been pulled right out of the imagination of a dreamer and slapped up on the screen for all to marvel. This concept is one of the reasons I want to be a cartoonist. But, as many things in life, we can only see truly through our own eyes. That’s why I can still graphically remember the realms books have made me imagine all throughout my life. My mind wove the tapestry and my subconscious hung it on the wall.
Next but certainly not null are characters. Characters are integral to most good stories, if the environment is the body the characters are the life blood. They become the eyes we see through, or root against, or explore complex emotion through. In books its up to the author to breath life into these characters, in film its the job of the writers and especially the actors. Now I’ve seen quite a few films where I loved the book, but the actor just didn’t bring the right energy to the role. This (along with writing that misunderstands its source material) can hinder a whole production. But ironically enough, I often have the opposite feelings about characters in films/books than I do about setting. When I think about a character from a book, if there has been a movie version my mind immediately goes to the actor who played them. For better or for worse. Unless I had a clear picture of the character, and the film portrayed them in a very different way. But that’s few and far between. More often than not a movie will cast someone or is similar enough to the character I had envisioned that they will become the character to me. Especially if the actor is good, a good enough actor can steal a character straight out of its pages.
The final and often most important part of any film or movie is the story. This is usually where books have an advantage. They have hundreds of pages and thousands of words to fill in every detail and plot thread they need to. Movies have to summarize generally, especially if they’re making a movie about a book. They have to cram all the theming, emotion, character and heart of a 500 page book into a 90 minute retelling. So unless the film has a top notch director and excellent writers who specialize in summarizing without leaving things out, books have an advantage.
But as we know movies nowadays are often more popular than books, and this is for a simple reason. Entertainment. As sad as it may be movies are widely regarded as more entertaining. That’s because books take more mental effort. It’s comparable to running a marathon and then getting ice cream, vs taking a stroll and then getting ice cream. The marathon runners have the right to say marathons are better for you than strolls, but the walkers are gonna keep walking.
In the end it all comes down to what you’re looking for in the moment. If you’re looking for a spread out detailed and beautiful experience that slowly builds in magnitude and character growth; painting another world in your mind and leaving you sitting wistfully with a head full of dreams, I’d suggest a good book. But if you’re looking to take ‘er easy, have a good laugh and a good cry, witness the magic of moving pictures and the raw talent of performers: well films won’t let you down. Its all about what you’re looking for.