I write both novels and screenplays and I’ve found there to be a major difference between the two. I don’t know which one I like better; I like them both equally, but in different ways.
Screenwriting is much more superficial. It is about the story much more than the characters. Sure, a lot goes into developing characters and creating their quirks, but a screenwriter cannot delve into the psyche of a character quite as much.
Everything about a character must be acted out or spoken. It requires the screenwriter to get very creative. If there’s something that they want the audience to know, he must figure out an interesting way to show it.
Screenwriters are masters of the rule, “show, don’t tell.” This is a rule in every kind of writing. It makes things more interesting and it keeps the work from seeming too on the nose. So, in this way, playing around with screenwriting can help a prose writer immensely. It eliminates that temptation to just state a fact through an omniscient voice.
On the other hand, I’ve found prose offers so much more freedom. The structure isn’t as strict, and so the writer is able to use his creativity to its fullest.
However, because there is a wider array of things a prose writer can do, he’s obligated to add many more details and to provide the reader with a much fuller reading experience. He must develop the most intimate details about characters, give striking descriptions of setting, and leave no loose ends in the plot.
In this way, writing prose can help a screenwriter. It’s tempting to keep your screenplay at the superficial level that the audience would see on screen, but that can be boring. If a screenwriter takes the same approach to developing his story as he would for a novel, the screenplay would have much more depth.
There are certain stories that are better suited for screen than a novel and vice versa. When a writer has an idea, he typically knows which form would fit it. I typically will choose screenplay for more entertaining, plot based works; and I choose novel for the analytical, theme-based works.
I like to play around with many styles of writing because I find it strengthens my writing overall. For me, it’s about expressing my idea in the best medium there is for that specific idea. I don’t view the two forms as exclusive art forms. It’s all writing and so I shall be a master of both!
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/olivander/58499153/”>Olivander</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>