…began their lives as short stories. Take Memento, Interstellar, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, among others, as examples.
Short stories are an excellent literary genre. In the time it takes to eat lunch at work, a talented author can wrench your heart this way and that, make you fall in and out of love with characters, and cause you to wrestle with the fears, funs, and faults of life.
Very few art forms have the ability to manipulate their audience in such a short amount of time. Visual arts may do this. Sometimes a TV show might. Music, I think, is the best at engaging its audience’s emotions in a short period of time. I love these art forms because that’s what I look for in entertainment and escape: I want to be manipulated. I want to feel like I’ve been transported to a different world, or that I’ve had a jackhammer taken to my emotions, or that I’ve experienced the life of another person, if only for a short time.
For those of you who haven’t been following along for the past few weeks, I’m currently engaged in a project called the Unfamiliar Genre Project, where me and my classmates in CO301d are expected to try to write a piece of literature in an unfamiliar genre. I chose to write a screenplay.
Admittedly, as a writer, I struggle with coming up with plots. I struggle especially with the kind of plots that punch you in the gut and leave you with an empty feeling when you’re done. But, to ease some of my discomfort and to make this project more manageable, I chose to follow the lead of those filmmakers that adapt short fiction into a story for the screen.
Is this a cop-out? I hope not. I expect not, and here’s why: these are always adaptations. Take The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. For those of you who have seen the 2013 film, you’ll know that it is a story about a man who is often distracted from reality by grandiose daydreams of heroic proportions. This is thematically in line with the short story of the same name, but that’s about where the similarities end. The movie goes well beyond the bounds of the short story that was its inspiration to tell a grand tale of someone who overcomes their fears by pursuing the things that are most important to them.
There’s no way I’m going to write a whole screenplay. But, to adapt a short story, or even just a single moment in a short story, is a good goal for this project. Perhaps, if I happen to get a genius while I’m at it, then I might even write something that has the power of a Disney short. Yet another genre of literature that has the ability to wreck its audience in a matter of minutes. That’s my goal.