Tuesday, 27 November 2018
Dream Movie: visualisation in novel-writing
It has been sometimes said that ‘pictures are better on the radio’. The true could be said for fiction. The problem with so many screen adaptations of our favourite books is the literalisation of the narrative’s ambiguous energies and the corresponding colonisation of our imagination. The vision of each character, each scene – once unique to each reader in their interactive interface with the text – becomes fixed and commodified, merchandisable. While still in text form the novel has a vibrating potentiality – it is in no fixed state, of no fixed abode: nomad fiction. Paradoxically, this is achieved by the novelist’s intense visualisation of the mis-en-scène. So often a piece of apprentice writing fails because of a lack of clear visualisation. People, places, actions, details remain frustratingly out of focus. It is like watching a poor quality VHS (remember those?), or a movie in which the projectionist hasn’t noticed the picture is out of focus (remember when they used to do this before the start of a movie?). For me, half the work of the novel is in this process of visualisation. When I am ‘in the zone’ I don’t even notice I am doing it. It is often like slotting a DVD into my head and pressing play. I merely describe what I am seeing. Having trained in Fine Art originally I have an intensely visual imagination. Every night my dreams are like a showreel of epic FX-laden movies. I am so used to them now, I don’t bother to try and remember them. It’s just how my brain works, processing the day, and perhaps tapping into the collective unconscious … hacking the Akashic Record, whatever … The sleep of reason, when the gremlins inside my head goof off. Any road, this faculty has been a godsend to my writing. I rarely have problems picturing a scene. The challenge, of course, is getting it down on the page. That’s where the graft and the craft and comes in. I was particularly enthralled by the process of writing Black Box, because it was like being a big movie director with a mega-budget and lots of toys to play with. My inner Ridley Scott/Christopher Nolan/Alfonso Cuaron came out. Since the novel was initially conceived as a film (albeit one restricted by a tiny budget) it was effortless to envision it – it has been cinematic from the start. Now it is fully-formed novel (with your kind support). But if any director was interested … the film rights are available! It would make one helluva movie.
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