The screenplay-novel is not a selling out. Think of it this way: there are good movies. There is good TV. In other words, both mediums are capable of producing genuine works of art, despite their group-made natures. If you write a screenplay-novel, you should try to make something that also has artistic merit. Obviously, it won’t have the linguistic, descriptive power of great novels. But it will have the capacity to stir people’s imaginations.
And when reading a screenplay-novel, all people have to do is allow themselves to read it as a director might. This is one of the broad-based effects that movies have had on the modern mind: it is possible — even natural, it sometimes seems — to think “cinematically”. In other words, our minds have already been conditioned to imagine narratives as if they were movies. Maybe everyone doesn’t do this. But many people do, and they do it effortlessly. In this sense, we are all directors now.
The trick is to be a good director — an auteur, if you will. Remember that the best movies and TV are often made in opposition to mass culture. The screenplay-novel is another way of doing that.
This is a fascinating discussion and definitely a viable idea.
I was wondering though: why didn’t Harbor acknowledge the practicality of writing something which conceivably could be produced on film?
Another question. When you write your novel-screenplays, do you think about things related to production values?
When I was in college, I wrote an entertaining and surreal screenplay (called “George Washington”) without seriously imagining it could be produced. Now that I’ve gotten a little into video production, I’ve thought about rewriting the original screenplay so it could be produced on a shoestring budget. Do questions of economy affect the way you write a novel/screenplay?
It’s always an interesting crazy adventure when experts in one genre venture into others. BTW, I think think we see a similar genre taking place in literary podcasting: see my article on literary podcasting for more.
I’m interested in literary podcasting (for lack of a better phrase). But these are dialogue-driven and don’t involve much imagery or internal reflection; however, screenplays offer more opportunities (and mechanisms) for reflection.
Harbor’s ideas raise other questions. First, does the story have to read as quickly as novels? Can they involve a lot of inner monologues? Would there ever be occasions where a screenplay would be unproducible by design?