The integrity of a novel

So, after some rather intense posts, I would like to move to something more, ahem, connected to writing.

Also some things rather silly, one of which has to do with NaNoWriMo.  Along with many others, I received a note today from Grant Faulkner about the Project For Awesome grant which NaNo is in the running for, via a video by Debs and Errol.  It’s a hilarious clip, for a very good cause, so if you have just a few minutes, go check it out, then vote, then come back here and finish reading my post.

Or you can finish reading my post first, but please vote before the end of today, Monday, 17 December, just one week away from Christmas Eve, and just one day after my beloved 49ers beat the New England Patriots at Foxborough.  In the freezing rain.  After, ahem, we were ahead 31-3, then the Pats tied the score, then we got ten more points, then they got three, then we stopped them on fourth down and won the game!

Yeah!

Okay, so recently I was faced with the integrity of a novel; not one of my novels per se, but a novel, any novel, of which mine then do qualify.  So last Thursday, while watching football, I was bored to my eyeteeth due to teams that 1) aren’t my San Francisco 49ers.  2) Aren’t in our division (NFC West). 3) Were playing poor football overall.  I picked up Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry, a fabulous novel about a cattle drive from Texas to Montana in the old west.  Not the NFC West, but sometime after the Civil War American West, no football anywhere within the story.  Within the story are fights, gun-play, violence (sigh), also love, friendship, honor, humor (cool!).  And, because I’ve seen the TV miniseries, faces of famous actors that are those characters, even though I haven’t seen Lonesome Dove the miniseries in probably two decades.

I was getting caught up in the later chapters as the Hat Creek Outfit reaches Nebraska, where Gus McCrea’s past flame Clara lives.  I like Clara, one of the few women in the book, but every time I read about her, I cannot help but picture the actress who played her.  I won’t note that here; if you want to read Lonesome Dove, do so without the specter of famous faces sullying the novel.  (If enor-mo sagas about the Wild West aren’t your thing, well, you can Google it.)  But the gist was that no longer could I read about Clara without being inundated by someone who did a great job in the miniseries, but really altered how I view that character.

As my husband muted the commercials (we always mute the commercials), I said to him, ‘Now every time I read this book, I think of Blah Blah as Clara.  You know what?  Unless we are absolutely destitute, if someone ever wants to buy the film/miniseries rights to any of my books, I am going to say no.  I don’t want anyone to ever think of my characters as Hollywood actors.’

My husband smiled, nodded, then unmuted the TV.

Now, there is a snowball’s chance in Hades that ANYONE is going to ever desire the film/TV rights to any of my stories.  But I had never before felt a novel had been compromised in such a manner.  I started thinking about it as football blared; when I read To Kill A Mockingbird or The Stand or The World According To Garp or The Shining or__________ (fill in the blank with a multitude of novels), I cannot help but equate those characters with the well-known faces who portrayed them on the big or small screen.  Mostly it’s all right, although I’m not overly fond of Fran Goldsmith in The Stand anymore, nor do I appreciate Wendy Torrance in Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining.  My husband muted the TV again, and I set down my book, as I had never felt my reading experience so intruded upon.  I reiterated my point  but decided to add a qualifier.  ‘Well, if the French ever wanted to buy the rights, that would be okay.’  I know very few French actors; Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu, just off the top of my head.  That made my husband smile (he really likes French films).  ‘I’d love to see a French version of For God and Country,’ I continued, as he shook his head and unmuted the game.  I returned to my book, trying to read Clara as McMurtry wrote her, not as that actress, as talented as she is.

I didn’t do so well.  But I did finish the book; it’s a GREAT book!  The end, oh my goodness, just fantastic.  I really recommend it, but whatever you do, please let Gus and Call and Newt and Clara and Lorie and Deets and Jake and the rest be exactly as McMurtry wrote them and who they become in your mind.  Sometimes I take a lot of time to flesh out a character, sometimes it’s not as important.  But what is very meaningful is who those folks are to a reader.  I’m an author. I also love a good yarn.  Lonesome Dove, and the rest mentioned above, are superb.

So are the movies and miniseries made from them.  But I will always carry those visuals, I can’t shake it.  Maybe this is just my small, certainly not morose, rant.  It’s actually very silly, on many levels.

Just like Debs and Errol’s video!  Please watch it today, Monday, 17 December, and vote for it!  And if you find this post after Monday, 17 December, watch it anyways.  There’s always time for a smile.

Updated on 18 December: Debs and Errol’s video has moved into the last round of voting!  So even though it’s past 17 December, you can still vote!  The Office of Letters and Light could earn $70,000 from this grant, so if you have a moment, please, it’s a really funny video.  And of course, a terrific cause!

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6 thoughts on “The integrity of a novel

  1. wordsurfer

    I understand completely. I have a range of books that I love and that I thing would make fabulous movies, but I hope will never be made into movies because I know those would “taint” the pictures in my head, and I’m very attached to them! 🙂

    Reply
  2. silverchimes

    I can understand about the book/movie thing! I kinda have the same thing about music videos. Way back in the day when MTV just started, videos sometimes gave me a cool mental picture of a song that I may not have paid much attention to, thus enhancing my enjoyment of the song. However as time went on, I found that the videos were much less enjoyable that what was going on in my head. Video visual is difficult to erase from the brain (mine anyway), so it really has ruined the enjoyment of some songs. Does this make any sense?

    Reply
    1. Anna Scott Graham Post author

      Completely! One of my fave videos (you’ll laugh) is Gn’R’s November Rain; sweeping and angsty, just like the song! But often I would watch some and think, ‘Meh.’ (Although back in those days, maybe meh wasn’t invented, ha ha!) I had just never felt a character so invaded before, and now as a writer, it really gave me pause for thought.

      Reply

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