Books are intimate because when you read a book, the color of the woman’s dress is whatever shade of red you imagine it, not whatever color the director picked for the movie, or the quality of lighting in the theater.
When you read a book, the car chase happens as fast or as slow as you imagine it. Not how some director set it up with cheap Hollywood explosions.
When you read a book, a kiss can take two seconds.
Or 10 seconds…
Or 10 minutes!
You can re-read that kiss, re-experience it…
Because you move at your pace in a book, you direct the show in your head.
You are the color director, the lighting director, the costume designer (I’d say you’re the gaffer, too, but I don’t know what that is; I’ve seen it in movie credits along with “best boy” and “key grip” though) of the movie playing in your head. The author gives you context and details, setting the scene, but the show in your mind runs at your pace.
Consider these examples.
The white chiffon dress blew upwards in the gust, dancing and swirling around her.
Or… what Billy Wilder put in for The Seven Year Itch when Marilyn Monroe stepped onto the subway grate.
The fuzzy monster batted at his fur and frowned, snarling as Sam ran by with breakfast.
Or, what the cartoonist drew for Green Eggs And Ham.
Barry lifted Melissa up in his arms and swung her around wildly. Her hair drifted into his face and he closed his eyes, inhaling. “Missy’s gonna help us find a tyrannosaur!”
“Put me down, you idiot.” She smacked him on the head. “I’m getting dizzy. And there weren’t any tyrannosaurs in Florida.”
He set her down, and they held onto each other, maybe to regain their balance. She took a breath and slid her hands down his arms, lingering for a moment. He grinned at her. Then he must have remembered where he was.
Sorry, no movie for that one. (Yet.) But you can read the rest of the scene in The Navigators, which will be coming out verrrry soon! (You can read chapter one right now – click HERE)
Now, if an actor does the scene, or a narrator reads…
Well, if an actor does a scene for you, it can be totally different from how you imagine it when you read it. Some parts will be the same, but some parts will be different. In Poggibonsi, when Mike begins to describe the girl on the train as the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, every detail he gives makes some readers more in alignment with him – but other readers may become less in alignment.
For each detail he describes that he likes, you may potentially like her less. Maybe you don’t like blonde hair. Maybe don’t like green eyes. Everybody likes big boobs so that’s kind of a nonissue. But the fact that you like Mike and Mike likes the girl on the train, you go along with it. Same with acting or reading. Each person would emphasize different words. However, there is something that inflection and nuance, subtlety – can bring to the role – that maybe you didn’t think of.
Movies are definitely a visual medium.
A picture speaks a thousand words.
Here’s a passage from a new story I’m working on. Let’s do a test. Consider this:
When he woke in the morning it was a slow, lingering awakening. The linens of the hotel smelled extra fresh and he inhaled the essence deep into his lungs. A smile crossed his face as the aroma permeated his senses and in that microsecond he realized she was still with him.
He lifted his head and open his eyes, gazing upon her beauty.
Admiring features that could grace the face of any model on any magazine, he noted every detail of her slumbering form. Long dark hair, a casual freckle here and there on her olive skin. High cheekbones that framed her gorgeous face, and a beautiful mouth with soft, full lips.
He shook his head and sighed. So beautiful.
On the nightstand, the wine glasses and empty bottle indicated what he already knew. They had fallen asleep in each other’s arms. After talking late into the night about business and careers and philosophy and everything else, the dawn came. They kept on talking, never wanting to stop, never losing interest.
But it hadn’t stopped there. Naked, he snuggled closer to her, putting his nose to her ear. The fragrance of her body was more delicate than any hotel linen could ever hope to be.
He watched her sleep. So still, so beautiful.
Sliding his hand along her hip, he found the white satin of her panties. Soft and smooth against his fingers, he toyed with the lace at the waistband, easing a finger underneath.
He brought his lips to her cheek, delivering a light, delicate kiss, almost not touching her at all. A butterfly on a summer day, landing on a flower. Another kiss on her chin, then finally he moved to her mouth, brushing his lips against hers.
A smile tugged at her cheek. Her eyes were still closed but not as gently as before.
He slid his fingers along the shiny fabric, drawing slow, gentle circles while kissing a tender path down her neck.
She opened her eyes to gaze at him as a smile stretched across her face. Her soft voice – average to anyone else, and annoying to her – but mesmerizing to him. “Is this how they do a wake up call here?”
“No.” He returned the smile, flashing the trademark dimples she loved. “But this is how I’d like to do it every day from now on: I love you, darling. How’s that?”
Now, you can read that however you want to read it. And you may bring elements to it that are not there. What color are the bed sheets? Is it an elegant, ornate hotel? Or is it a Motel 6?
Expensive wine in expensive glasses, or a screw top bottle purchased in the lobby and plastic cups from the bathroom?
Is he good looking?
He is whatever you want him to be. And so is she. But with each detail you got about her, you could like her more or like her less. And then there’s this:
Emoting. Emphasis. Nuance. The way a narrator emphasizes certain words – and chooses to linger on others.
So let’s see if a narrator changes the experience.
What was different? What was the same?
What did our humble narrator emphasize that would would have played differently, and what did he bring that maybe you liked better? Or did he ruin it for you? (No need to actually answer; kinda being rhetorical here, making a point. Besides, it was really early. I was trying to get that “just woke up” sound in my voice. Probably.)
Books are intimate. So is a good love scene no matter where it occurs.
Which is better? Are books more intimate?