Friday, March 27, 2015

The Long and Winding Rewrite

Sometimes great ideas go horribly wrong. Is there a book with a genius premise that you'd like to rewrite?

By Paul D. Marks

DaVinciCodeWell, besides everything I’ve ever written that, after looking at it a few months or years later....

It seems that great minds think alike and that said great minds all think The Da Vinci Code falls flat. Coming at the end of the week, I hope I’m not being too repetitive. I think The Da Vinci Code is a great, high concept, idea for a book. But it was a terribly written book. Of course, that didn’t stop it from becoming a mega zillion seller making mega zillions for Dan Brown.  So maybe it doesn’t need to be rewritten. Nonetheless, I’d take a shot at it. Definitely clean it up and liven up the dull prose. Bring in a street sweeper to pick up the you-know-what. And then it would probably be a well written book with a great concept that nobody would buy.

There are a lot of books (and movies) where, when I look at them or read them I think, great concept, terrible execution. But I often seem to be in the minority because a lot of these sell tons of copies. It’s like my mom used to say, something to the effect of, “I don’t get bogged down in the quality of the writing, good or bad, if it’s a good story it will carry me along.” And maybe that’s the key. Just write a good story, tell it reasonably well. Have a plot that drives forward and characters that drive the plot and there you go.

However, for me, I like things that are well written as well as well plotted. That’s not to say I won’t read a book that’s not necessarily well written. And even enjoy it. But I might enjoy it more if were better presented.

I happen to be partial to Raymond Chandler. I like his plots. I like his characters. And I love his writing and his descriptions. I really feel that I’m there, in that location with those people. I can see it, feel it, smell it. And I think a lot of that is missing from today’s writing. A lot of prose writing today is inspired, for lack of a better word, by film writing. And film writing is very fast paced and very spare. And that’s good for movies. Because a screenplay is not a finished product and all those other elements, visual, atmosphere, setting, casting, location, etc., get filled in by the locations, the sets, the camera work, the actors, etc.  But a novel is the finished product. And in a novel it’s up to the writer to convey a picture, mood, feeling, etc. I like to feel where we are. I like to be in the room or the location with the characters. And so many writers today basically describe a scene as “Joe entered the room. He picked up the gat from the desk.” Okay, that’s a little simplistic. But you get the idea. There’s no, or little, sense of the room. The atmosphere, etc. And I miss that. 

484Oh, and to bring this full circle and respond again to the question at hand: I’d like to rewrite Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon to make it more accessible to everyday schmucks like me. (Okay, I’m not saying I would ever attempt to rewrite Pynchon, but you know what I mean.) I’m not saying to dumb it down, just to make it a little more user-friendly and approachable.  I’ve tried three different times over the years to read this book. It’s one of those that you think you should read, book bucket list-wise. But I just can’t get past about page 80 or 100. I’m not saying it’s badly written. But for me, at least, it’s impenetrable. Maybe I’ll give it another shot one of these days and the fourth time will be the charm.


Art Taylor said...

With the image so prominent, I was afraid you were going to say you wanted to rewrite The Long Goodbye. We were gonna have to have words about that....

Meredith Cole said...

I agree that a good story will carry you along, Paul! But it does make me sad when a great premise falls flat (what happened to all the editors?).

Paul D. Marks said...

Art, I'm glad we don't have to have words or come to blows. No, I love The Long Goodbye. One of my favorite Chandlers.

And Meredith, where are the Maxwell Perkinses of today? Seems like there's a lot lacking in editing, doesn't it?

GBPool said...

We have all read that small book that garners a: "My God, that was a good book." And we have read the blockbuster that elicits a: "How did that piece of $#!% ever get published?" Sometimes the undiscovered gem gets discovered. The blockbuster just has a better PR firm. But a good story in a great setting with interesting characters is still the goal.

Anonymous said...

Appreciate an honest 'take' and comment about top selling books. Above all, you have shared some great ideas and titles to add to my TBR list. Many thanks, Paul D. Marks.

Charlotte M Liebel

Susan C Shea said...

One of the most depressing things about being a professional writer is to read reviewers and blurbers falling over themselves over a book you think is dreck. "How could they?" Are they crazy?"

But small, beautiful books do have a way of blooming as word gets out, I think.

And let's not start on the state of editing and proofreading today!

Paul D. Marks said...

Couldn't agree more, Gayle. There are some authors one wonders how they can keep going with the crap they write. And others with small gems that don't see much of the light of day. I guess that's just how the world works.

Thank for comments, Charlotte.

And Susan, I think you're right on all counts!

Robin Spano said...

I love that you go at the end of the week. You don't duplicate, you deepen with your thoughtful, insightful posts.

And you're right -- on the opposite end of the scale to Da Vinci Code, there are several excellent books that could benefit by being "dumbed down." (AKA made more accessible.)

Paul D. Marks said...

Thank you for your comment, Robin. I appreciate it!