I just figured out why I can’t sit through movies, or if I am able to, why I later cannot remember them. It’s because my brain works on novels. And so does yours!!
I am convinced of this because of how people are watching TV these days, i.e. not on a TV. We watch shows on PVRs, Netflix, online streams, illegal downloads and TV box sets. We don’t watch television on television. We’re too efficient. We have too much to do to watch commercials! We’re beginning to realize we like stories in a convenient format. We like to carry them around in our purses. Sort of like books.
I am happiest when I am in a novel, or a long New Yorker article, and I’m just waiting to find out more but I have to do something else with my time like work or sleep or maybe write. I keep the story at the back of my mind. It’s why I like reading more than one book (or New Yorker article) at once: they get to spend time together in my head, making my dreams more creative.
If I watch a movie by myself, I watch it in at least two parts. With Netflix now on my iPad, I watch movies in ten-minute chunks, filling in the silent transitions of clothes-changes and teeth-brushes. I just figured out why I do it. My brain works on novels. I’m trying to make movies into novels.
Charles Dickens’ novels came out in serialized format – one chapter a week in the newspaper. Why doesn’t that happen anymore? Wouldn’t newspapers be infinitely more interesting? Wouldn’t writers be infinitely more interesting? Our culture likes to see the ins and outs of the creative process: what if at each week, with the serialized portion of the novel, there was a quick post from the author on what it took to write this chapter this week? What if the audience became privileged to the inner workings of the novel, the way we can on DVD special features and episode commentary?
(photo from digitaltrends.com)
We’re already used to following characters and stories on Twitter and Facebook. We are used to the novel – we’re constantly using the novel format – but we don’t realize it. In fact, we keep talking about how the novel is going out of fashion. People are scared for books now that they’re digital. But what a good thing for the art form that it made it through this digital revolution. What a good thing that it maybe even impacted it.
I would say the nature of the novel, as it first appeared in serialized format, is the inspiration for social media. To engage us as an audience, social media has latched on to our passion for being in the middle of something ongoing, where the characters are developing and interacting and where we learn information through a combination of inferences and exposition. We are consuming novels all over the place without even realizing it. It’s why I’m so excited right now. I fit in! I’m going to work!