Your book, in 2 minutes or less

Gerry here, thinking about thinking visually. How it’s different from thinking verbally. Pictures not words.

Words are our lifeblood, us writers. We create people, settings, landscapes all through the power of the carefully chosen word. We hope that what the words conjure up in our heads do the same for others. When I describe a character, I know what I see. But what about readers? Are they seeing the same person? A variation? Something quite different?

I was thinking this as I was talking to someone about the video trailer for PORT CITY BLACK AND WHITE. This person said he really liked it. He hasn’t read my books but says he will, now that he’s seen the video. I hope he does (gotta recoup my investment) but I wonder what he’ll see if he reads the book. We’ll he see the images in the video? Have I cheated? With the video, have I bypassed some part of the process of imagination?

You can watch it here. It’s kind of a mood piece. The loose idea was to contrast the good parts of the city (Portland, Maine) setting with the bad, day with night, tourists with gangbangers, a summer idyll with summer danger. And provide a little enticement. A little entertainment. A little suspense. It was a lot of fun to write the script, fun to watch the filming, interesting to help videographer Curt Shaput with the editing. The hero of the book, rookie cop Brandon Blake, isn’t in it. I got a cameo but, hey, I was in charge. I guess that’s how Alfred Hitchcock got his walk-throughs.

When I did this for my previous book, DAMAGED GOODS, I got a rather angry complaint from a reader. I think he was in Australia. He said he watched two seconds, saw that it was some sort of dramatization of the novel, and clicked it off. He could imagine the book himself. He didn’t need my visuals interfering with the ones in his head. Thank you very much.

I wonder though. In our visual age, will it more and more take enticing images to drive people to the written word? Which comes first, the movie or the book? Likes on YouTube or a likes from a librarian? And can visual images really duplicate the stuff we picture in our heads? Are they the same thing at all?

Just mulling here. I’d love to hear what you think.

And P.S. We’re going to be awarding free books (our own) to selected commenters so don’t be shy.






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14 Responses to Your book, in 2 minutes or less

  1. MCWriTers says:

    Gerry…when music videos first became popular, I quickly realized that I disliked them for just the reason your Australian commenter cited: that I like to imagine it for myself.

    Once, several years ago, I was leafing through a magazine and I found a picture of a woman who looked like I imagine Thea Kozak to look. I tore it out and put it on my husband’s desk. Fast forward a few hours. He comes home from work, picks it up, and says, in an irritated voice: What’s this?

    Oh, I said…that’s Thea. No. It’s not, he said. She doesn’t look anything like that. So, maybe it will be different for the next generation–raised on more graphics and used to motion to catch their attention. For me, I don’t want a whole lot of what Elmore Leonard and John Steinbeck might refer to as “hooptedoodle” between me and the page.

    That being said…I’ve always wanted a book trailer, and my Hollywood-based, movie and tv-editor son never comes through.

    • MCWriTers says:

      Interesting, Kate. But your husband knew exactly what he thought Thea looked like. For just that reason I’ve hesitated to describe my lead characters in detail. I can picture them but I know my image may be very different from some readers’. Someone pointed that out one time, saying, “What does McMorrow look like? You never really say.” I said, what do you think he looks like? They told me. I said, “Exactly right.”

  2. Barb Ross says:

    I’ve been wondering about book trailers, too. I assume they’re effective or people wouldn’t do them, but I don’t know how one medium relates to the other. Does a really good book trailer entice people to read the book–or is it just another way to get the title and authors name around for “top of mind awareness” when people are in the mode of actually looking for something to read?

    I know, given the choice, I prefer to read a book before I see a movie made from it–unless I’ve already decided it’s a book I’m willing to devote 2 hours of movie time to, but not 20 hours of reading time.

  3. Pj Schott says:

    Right now I’m reserving judgment on the book trailers. I love technology. And promotion. But I have to agree. I like to picture the characters myself. That said, I’m going to watch your trailer right now.

    • MCWriTers says:

      There are characters in the trailer. And types. Just not the characters in the book. I guess that’s the important distinction.

  4. Gerry — love it! good for you. I’ve had one all scripted in my head but haven’t gotten around to it…

  5. Sherry says:

    I prefer books to movies, interesting covers (though for authors I like I will buy the book regardless), and I like the characters to be well described just as the settings should be.
    A well described character will still look somewhat different in my minds eye compared to someone else’s (look at all the suggestions for and controversy over Lee Child’s Jack Reacher). A good synopsis on the back cover also comes into play as to whether I’ll buy a new author.

  6. Carol-Lynn Rössel says:

    I’m afraid I agree also with your Australian commenter. I like the movies in my head and have not yet seen a book trailer that ‘worked’ for me. And this might sound like an odd thing for me to say, since my family’s deep into the ‘movie’ business lately and one of my grandchildren has been in a big time book video. It’s an apples and oranges thing, I think. I think a trailer deprives the reader from creating his own version of your book. The same way a movie version of a book does. Think of how, now, all those people who, now, picture Lizbeth Salander as she is in the Swedish movies of the three books. And, THEN, think of how odd it will be when the American versions of these films come out. I do know, however, there are some non-readers (as you mentioned) who can be lured into actually reading a book by a video so I don’t totally dislike them, as we all function on different perceptive levels. Hey, I’m a visual person first. That’s why my writing is more like a screenplay, and I have to work to make it not that way. But good luck with this. Anything that brings in more readers is good. And, funnily enough, your visual version of Portland is NOTHING like the Portland I know (or want to know); that’s the way it is with visions, aesthetic or otherwise. No two of us live in the same reality.

    • MCWriTers says:

      Thanks, Carol-Lynn. RE: Lisbeth, I made the mistake of watching the movies first (I was laid up after knee surgery), and now when I read the books, I see the actress. I wonder what I might have imagined if …
      But an American actress. Ah, I’m afraid that version is doomed for me.

      As you can tell, I’m a bit conflicted about all this. And as far as the Portland of my book and your Portland, I think most people are fortunate to miss Brandon’s cop’s-eye-view of the city. As the saying goes, they deal with 5 percent of the people 95 percent of the time.

  7. Joe Marusic says:

    I would enjoy two minutes of visual images before reading a book. Not all of us are highly visual in processing information. When comparing books to movies, books are almost always better, so I would rather see the movie first, if there is one. The book will be even better. If I read the book first, the movie would be a letdown. Great examples are the “Jason Bourne” movies. They have hardly anything to do with the books.

  8. Kristen Lindquist says:

    Gerry, just watched the trailer and I’ve got PORT CITY BLACK AND WHITE at the top of my to-read pile. What the trailer really does, I think, is establish setting. I think you could have gone a little more noir with Portland–I picture Brandon’s world much grittier than what was in the trailer–but I think the trailer can be really helpful for people to realize that the action in your book isn’t going on in the Portland that tourists know and love. (Did I see you make a cameo on a sidewalk scene?) I think it can enhance people’s enjoyment or even understanding of a book, but, as with anything, if you aren’t into having your book experience “ruined” by the visual, don’t watch a book trailer. I’m looking forward to reading your book on this rainy weekend!

    • MCWriTers says:

      Thanks, Kristen. Hope you enjoy PC B&W. And yes, I did do the sidewalk cameo. Though I think I could do better with 40 or 50 takes. I was just getting into the character (man on sidewalk, No. 1).

  9. Russell Warnberg says:

    Gerry, I enjoyed your trailer. The positive aspect far out weights any possible negative fall out. My first murder mystery is being published and will be out around Christmas. The release will be accompanied by a short fifteen second trailer, so I hope there will be a positive response. It will be interesting to see if yours brings about an increase in sales. Best Wishes,

    • MCWriTers says:

      Thanks for all the comments. As you can tell, I’m still a bit conflicted about this vehicle. But if it captures reader/viewer attention for a bit, provide a sense of the mood of the book, then it’s probably worthwhile. What I find interesting is the power of our imaginations. And I think viewers are imagining different Brandon Blakes as they view the trailer. Thank you, all for the interesting comments. All food for thought.

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