The best thing about reading a good story or a novel for me is when I am able to imagine the characters involved in the story, give them a face and appearance and a voice as I see them in my imagination, based (to some extent) on the author’s description of them.
Just recently I read the book Eddie’s Bastard by William Kowalaski. A captivating story, beautifully written. However, there’s a chapter in it which reminds me of an exact same scene I watched in a film before. As I read along that particular scene, the setting, the teenager, the woman, the bedroom, everything that the writer described I remembered having seen in the movie in the exact same way. This is something I don’t mind, since most of the plots are similar. A teenage boy gets seduced by a grown woman, and loses his virginity while delivering grocery for the store he works in. What bothered me though is that everything the author described and wanted me as a reader to see were all shown to me in the film, from the main character’s bicycle to the backdoor through which he entered. I couldn’t even imagine the faces of the characters because I remembered the faces of the actors who played the movie. Of course being me I forgot their names, as I forget most names most of the time. Eventually it comes back to me but always when it’s too late.
I had two major problems with this. The first is that films put a guard on my imagination. When I read a story or a book, I let my imagination run wild. And if the film is based on a book I’ve read and liked, the book loses its magic for me. I mean I love movies, I love films. But in the end I can’t help but speculate over whether the producers and directors have done justice to the book by their choice of actors to play the characters. There is always this feeling that perhaps it could have been better if so and so played it, etc.
The second problem is that the author chose a very common scene to show us how the teenage boy becomes a man by having an affair with an older married woman and single mother, when delivering her groceries to her home. In most novels teenage boys have sexual relationships with older women, but to utilize the exact same scene as in the film is for me a total failure on the part of the author. It shows his lack of imagination.
Imagination, a simple word, yet as a reader and a writer you can do a lot with it. There are a million different ways to tell a story. As a writer you have to choose the one that is yours and only yours. You have to figure out how to tell your story that will make it yours. And William Kowalaski failed to do so, even if it was in a single scene.
In the words of Anton Chekhov:
“For a lie is even more annoying in a story than in conversation.”