“I’m a writer.”
“Cool. A screenwriter?”
“A novelist, actually.”
This is how introductory conversations function in Hollywood, the city brimming with worldwide cinematic hopefuls. I can spot the recent transplants fairly accurately, too. It’s a skill developed by LA natives. (Yes, we exist.)
I don’t have anything against film people, by the way. I used to be one of them.
My screenwriting professors kept saying, “Your action must be short. Quick phrases. Single words.” Then it hit me:
I wanted to write sentences. Full sentences.
Was that possible? Did anybody make those anymore?
My first fiction class was a welcomed break from text and instant messages. I could create stories and characters with paragraphs. And not those “concrete detail, commentary, commentary, transition” monstrosities. These morsels could flow however I wanted without being told that act one must end on page thirty.
So I laughed, bouncing amid the cold war of university writing workshops. My screenwriting prof. said writing a book was easy because you just tell the characters thoughts, while you can only show them in movies. Cut to the following afternoon: My fiction prof. said screenwriters didn’t understand prose because their work was merely a blueprint for the production crew to finish creating the world of the story. I disagreed with both contentions.
Each genre requires different skills to achieve different effects. I don’t even consider them pros and cons; they’re simply challenges unique to the medium. Novels, as it turned out, offered the broadest landscape for the ever-evolving stories I wanted to tell—this coming from the guy who read The Catcher in the Rye in high school and concluded: “Novels suck.”
(Don’t worry. I have since reread that book and now consider it one of my favorites.)
My fiction benefits from my training in the different arts, including poetry, nonfiction, and playwriting. (I’m a theatre person at heart, by the way. The stage bug is fatal once it enters your bloodstream.) So, like the thespians of Los Angeles, I’ve chosen to pursue my craft in a location where the weather is ideal but the industry presence is not.
I can be considered aspiring since I have yet to publish my novel. On the other hand, as a friend trained for the LA Marathon, her first, she did not refer to herself as a marathoner in-training. She motivated herself by saying, “I am a marathoner.”
I have written a full, semi-polished draft of the book, discarded several hundred pages, and am currently in the midst of heavily revising. I am a novelist.