Friday, March 26, 2010

Delivery or Short-Change?

The other day, Dave and I were finishing up "The Boys Are Back," a film about Clive Owen's character trying to survive the death of his wife. This was based on the life and novel The Boys Are Back In Town, by former sportswriter Simon Carr.

It took us a couple days to finish the movie because 1) I had that flu, and 2) the movie was really slow.

I thought about how YA books don't have the luxury of being slow. How they have to please with plot, and right away.

On the other hand, for a film, being visually stimulating is often enough. There might be no dialogue, no narration, for minutes on end, but music and movement and scene still happen.

All that takes pages and pages of scriptwriting (words) to create.This reminds me of an NPR story I heard years ago on the ginormous (6- or 700-page) screenplay of "Brokeback Mountain," in which, besides the famous "I wish I knew how to quit you," had minimal dialogue. But every time a cowboy brushed his hand across a horse, that was probably 10 pages of script right there. So oodles more words were added to the original short story by E. Annie Proulx.

Okay, where is all this going? Well, with the slow films, it's not going anywhere, at least anytime soon.

But with YA literature, this just isn't the case. There's no more allowance for sinking into a story through scene, through description. It's all action, right from The Hook.

Which makes me wonder: what is the fate of The YA Introduction's evolution? Is it reflective of today's young readers? Have authors pinned themselves into a corner by delivering what's demanded? What is lost by having a hook? What is gained? And where, in terms of beginnings, will we be 20 years from now?


~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

What an interesting insight! Let's face it, today's youth are used to speeding down the information highway. Images on TV flash change on a second-by-second basis. Kids talk fast, think fast. And they have ever shorter attention spans. It only makes sense that they'd loose interest in a book that doesn't satisfy that need for speed.

I'm reading a literary fiction novel right now. It won a national book award. It's s-l-o-wwwwwwwww. But the descriptive voice is intoxicating, and the symbolism mirrors the characters and conflicts beautifully. Still, I find myself frustrated at times -- and literary fiction is my genre!

I wonder too, what will today's YA readers enjoy reading once they've tired of stories about teenagers? Great question, one I'm going to mull over today.

Great post!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I think we still have plenty of lit. out there catering to every taste - and I think we always will. Much of the adult lit. is faster paced than it used to be, but we have a truckload of slower, more mellow books to choose from too. It's a circle - continuous and endless. :-)