PDA

View Full Version : What does this mean?



clara bow
03-17-2007, 09:30 PM
My latest form rejection had a personalized note that read "this reads too much like a screenplay."

wtf??!

The agent only had a partial from my fantasy romance, and I am not a screenwriter (I wouldn't know First Draft from a draft beer). It doesn't sting or anything, but it's confusing the heck out of me. What do you think this means? Feel free to chime in on any guesses. This is the weirdest personalized rejection I ever received.

:Shrug:

Siddow
03-17-2007, 09:52 PM
Too much dialogue, not enough setting and description?

(I'm just guessing. Not a screenwriter.)

Personal notes are cool, even when they're confusing. I got a rejection on a short story once where I got a form letter, but the editor wrote, "I love the way your protagonist sees the world around her," in blue ink, off to the side. Huh? Then buy it, damnait!:rant:

maddythemad
03-18-2007, 02:12 AM
That is weird. I can't imagine what it means.

... Unless... You need to find a different way to have Jimmy leave the room, instead of, "EXIT JIMMY." ;)

Rob B
03-18-2007, 05:15 AM
My latest form rejection had a personalized note that read "this reads too much like a screenplay."

wtf??!

The agent only had a partial from my fantasy romance, and I am not a screenwriter (I wouldn't know First Draft from a draft beer). It doesn't sting or anything, but it's confusing the heck out of me. What do you think this means? Feel free to chime in on any guesses. This is the weirdest personalized rejection I ever received.

:Shrug:

At least you got an agent to reply with a personal message. In this
day and age, that's becoming quite an accomplishment. The answer
to your concern probably lies close to what others have stated in their replies related to lack of story development, which unfortunately can mean anything.

There is, however, something very positive to consider about the agent's response: It may be that your storyline is fine, and the novel needs only to be fleshed out.

The best way to perhaps get a handle on where the agent might be coming from is to take a look at a book on screenplays, such as THE ELEMENTS OF SCREENWRITING, by Stanley Blacker, or SCREENPLAY, by Sid Fields. A million years ago when I read these, what shocked me was how little the writer contributed to the physical scene and how much was the purview of the director.

The opening scene with the clocks in BACK TO THE FUTURE, as explained in William Goldman's WHICH LIE DID I TELL/ MORE ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE, clearly illustrates the director's impact--and, in this instance, genius. If you read this scene's set up, or any examples in either of the books I referenced, compare how much is presented by the author and and how much is extemporaneous on the part of the director.
And you may find that it would be beneficial if you evaluated your novel from a director's perspective--with you assuming that critical position.

As dumb as this sounds, take your favorite chapter and write it out as
if you were the director setting up a scene from the chapter. Now look
at the chapter you originally wrote and see if there is anything you
can extrapolate from your screenplay chapter that would enhance the experience for the reader, who doesn't have a movie screen to fill in all the blanks.

I hope this helps. Rob B

clara bow
03-18-2007, 09:08 AM
Too much dialogue, not enough setting and description?

That's a good guess, but in the first three chapters there's hardly pages and pages of dialogue. It's the usual scene setting, description, character exchanges, etc. I know some people luv looong scenes with nothing but description, so maybe this wasn't the agent's cup of tea for that reason. On the other hand, I write with a certain economy of style, but it's hardly Hemingway sparse. It's very visual, so maybe she didn't like the visual images the prose evoked???

Personal notes are cool, even when they're confusing. I got a rejection on a short story once where I got a form letter, but the editor wrote, "I love the way your protagonist sees the world around her," in blue ink, off to the side. Huh? Then buy it, damnait!:rant:

aw, so close! that's a bummer. I *do* appreciate personal notes, as I've gotten quite a few helpful ones, but this just seemed so cryptic.
thanks for your feedback!

clara bow
03-18-2007, 09:09 AM
That is weird. I can't imagine what it means.

I know, me too! She meant it as constructive criticism, obviously, but *what* exactly is bad about something that reads like a screenplay? Too much action? Too fast paced? As I stated above, too much of an economy of style for fantasy??? Who knows.

... Unless... You need to find a different way to have Jimmy leave the room, instead of, "EXIT JIMMY." ;)

lol!!!

clara bow
03-18-2007, 09:19 AM
At least you got an agent to reply with a personal message. In this
day and age, that's becoming quite an accomplishment.

you are so right. I know I came off sounding snarky, but it just seemed out of left field compared to other agents' feedback. One gave me a whole letter, and while I didn't agree, I could see why the story execution wouldn't work for some readers.

The answer
to your concern probably lies close to what others have stated in their replies related to lack of story development, which unfortunately can mean anything.

that's why the cryptic note was so confusing. it doesn't help me narrow anything down, and it doesn't jibe with any of the other feedback I received.

There is, however, something very positive to consider about the agent's response: It may be that your storyline is fine, and the novel needs only to be fleshed out.

Good point. I could certainly add more description, but my strategy would be to get feedback from some beta readers first to see if there's a consensus. I don't want to add extraneous description because the story is meant to be light escapist fantasy.

how much is presented by the author and and how much is extemporaneous on the part of the director.
And you may find that it would be beneficial if you evaluated your novel from a director's perspective--with you assuming that critical position.

Again, good points. My challenge lies in how much to let the reader fill in vs. enough description/prose to ground the action. Sometimes I err on the side of letting the reader do too much work. I think.

As dumb as this sounds, take your favorite chapter and write it out as
if you were the director setting up a scene from the chapter. Now look
at the chapter you originally wrote and see if there is anything you
can extrapolate from your screenplay chapter that would enhance the experience for the reader, who doesn't have a movie screen to fill in all the blanks.



I don't think it sounds dumb at all. Thanks for the tip and all of your input.

janetbellinger
03-18-2007, 06:29 PM
Why not submit it somewhere as a screenplay?

Jamesaritchie
03-18-2007, 08:56 PM
"Too much like a screenplay" generally does mean too much dialogue and way too little narrative and description.

Cathy C
03-18-2007, 09:47 PM
Yeah, that's all I can think of too. Here's one way to check if you've got too much dialogue, Clara. Find a page where two people are having a conversation. When a person speaks, do they also perform action? For example, does your dialogue look like this:



"Bob, we need to get to the store pretty soon."

"Yeah, yeah. As soon as this show finishes."

"But they're going to close at 8:00, and I've got to have some eggs to make the cake for your mother's birthday tomorrow."


Or does it look like this:



Betty's hand flexed on the edge of the couch as she tried to keep her voice calm. "Bob, we need to get to the store pretty soon."

"Yeah, yeah. As soon as this show finishes." He didn't even blink as the characters moved across the screen mutely. How he could watch television with the sound off was beyond her.

She slowly let out a breath that was threatening to become a scream. "But they're going to close at 8:00, and I've got to have some eggs to make the cake for your mother's birthday tomorrow." Mentioning his mother was a gamble, but she was getting desperate.


I've seen a lot of dialogue in manuscripts that might as well be "talking heads" on network news programs. No movement, no action. Just lips moving with the reader left wondering what emotion is driving the words.

clara bow
03-18-2007, 10:18 PM
Yeah, that's all I can think of too.
Or does it look like this:

I've seen a lot of dialogue in manuscripts that might as well be "talking heads" on network news programs. No movement, no action. Just lips moving with the reader left wondering what emotion is driving the words.

If I may be so bold, I would venture to say the prose resembles your second example. Here's a random page or so from the first chapter:

[SIZE=3]A crackling sound punctured the silence, and the smell of sulfur wafted through the immediate area. The corpse suddenly burst into flames, not with the warm yellow light of a hunting lodge fire, but one that was oddly tinged with green. The pyre assaulted the men’s nostrils with a suffocating smell as it burned.


Lionel felt he had to see more. “Help me! Help me to sit up!”


Edward obliged. Lionel threw back his cape and inspected his swollen arm. It hung in his lap at rather an odd angle. He felt weak. Whatever you do, be a man and don’t faint, he thought. Most definitely do not faint! The pain bit and gnawed at him, the likes of which he had never experienced before in his years. How long would he have to bear the horrid anguish? None of his companions were healers. And the ride home would take hours. Lionel sucked in his breath hard, as if stiffening his insides would offset the pulsing throbs. Do - not - faint! He felt his eyes begin to involuntarily close. Darkness drank his soul.


Then, something happened. His eyes opened. When next he glanced up, it was into the eyes of the stranger.


The man knelt and reached towards Lionel’s arm, but Edward intervened and pushed him back roughly. “No one touches the Duke without permission!”


The two men glared at one another. Edward’s hand slowly reached for his hunting knife, secured by his side. This movement did not go unnoticed by the stranger.’s eyes In the background, the wolf steeled itself with a low, almost preternatural growl.


“No!” Lionel exclaimed. “We’ll have none of that!” He admonished his cousin with a look that said, “I’m the one in excruciating pain here, so humor me.” Reluctantly, Edward obliged and backed off. Lionel turned and gave a quick nod, inviting the stranger in for a closer examination.


The man laid gentle fingers upon his twisted limb, and then sprinted to his horse for more items from another sack. He returned and began to administer aid at once.
The Duke studied him unabashedly as he worked, but he seemed oblivious to the attention. Lionel thought the stranger very handsome, in a raggedy sort of way. He was tall and muscular, but somewhat thin. Glossy, raven black hair shorn into uneven locks framed an angular face with high cheekbones and pale lips.

Exquisitely etched brows lined emerald green eyes. Their lashes were thick and dark, but not overly pronounced. Lionel made particular note of his clothes. They were mostly black…and very careworn. But one detail in particular caught his eyeattention: an embroidered patch that covered one elbow. Good heavens! he thought. But the outfit’s classic tailoring hinted of something noble, something…regal?


Lionel was literally snapped out of his reverie when the stranger set his arm back in place. “Ouch! You might have warned me,” he told him, attempting a graceful smile through clenched teeth.


The assailed Duke swore to himself he saw the hint of a smile in return, but it disappeared as quickly as the thought itself had come. Perhaps he was mistaken. The stranger did not seem one to often part with a grin.


I'm not claiming to be Super Wonderful Writer, and this story is by no means the Great American Novel, but I don't think i have a lot of talking heads. Any other thoughts are welcome, though I don't mean to oblige critiques here.

clara bow
03-18-2007, 10:27 PM
"Too much like a screenplay" generally does mean too much dialogue and way too little narrative and description.


Point taken, but how much is too much dialogue and how little is too little? That's why this advice is so confounding. I'll admit, my blocks of pure description without any dialogue are anywhere from two to three pages. Or maybe five pages with just one or two lines of dialogue. But isn't that within normal range? There isn't a single chapter with *just* dialogue. I tried to weave everything in together.

I guess some of this depends on the genre, too. Well, like I said above, maybe some beta reads would help. Maybe I'm on the other side of the continuum from someone like George R.R. Martin, lol! I mean, I love his books, but I gloss over his acres of detail at times.

clara bow
03-18-2007, 10:41 PM
Why not submit it somewhere as a screenplay?

Oh, my, don't get me started! I'm massively guilty of envisioning this as a movie, but it's not a realistic goal. The budget would have to be millions of dollars. Maybe having it published isn't either, but that's how the story poured out of me. I'm still sending queries out, but I've basically reached the point where I'll shelve it since I've gone through so many agents.

I *have* considered the possibility that maybe this story would be better served by the medium of film, but how egotistical is *that*??! It's frustrating, the thought that maybe one has an idea that would make a good film, but there are zero chances of it happening (again, I'm being real here). Makes me wonder what's wrong with me. Too many dreams, I guess.

And actually, any agent that gave a personalized reply either said they still liked the premise, or didn't remark on the premise. Hmmm...

lol, any producers out there wanna option this? (yeah, right).

well, onward and upward.

Cathy C
03-18-2007, 10:51 PM
The Duke studied him unabashedly as he worked, but he seemed oblivious to the attention. Lionel thought the stranger very handsome, in a raggedy sort of way. He was tall and muscular, but somewhat thin. Glossy, raven black hair shorn into uneven locks framed an angular face with high cheekbones and pale lips.

Exquisitely etched brows lined emerald green eyes. Their lashes were thick and dark, but not overly pronounced. Lionel made particular note of his clothes. They were mostly black…and very careworn. But one detail in particular caught his eyeattention: an embroidered patch that covered one elbow.

You're right. It's not too much dialogue for the narrative. But oddly, this is what I feel reads like a screenplay. It's like set notations to the wardrobe department. Are there other instances of this level of detail about characters or scenery?

clara bow
03-18-2007, 11:09 PM
You're right. It's not too much dialogue for the narrative. But oddly, this is what I feel reads like a screenplay. It's like set notations to the wardrobe department. Are there other instances of this level of detail about characters or scenery?


Hm. I thought that in a screenplay, the writer *isn't* supposed to add so much detail, because that is left up to whatever actor is being cast or the director or whatever. I've read so many romances with block passages of description, I thought what I had was pretty standard. That doesn't make it right, but there's also expectations to fulfill, to a degree.

Or my writing sucks. That's a possiblity, too.

I'm not saying it's the best writing, but I thought that's what readers kind of expected. I know it's better to work it into the narrative, but...but...(well, okay, I was being a little lazy...but I have seen it done this way countless times over, so it's not out of left field or anything).

As for scenery, i want to say I did a better job working that in with details that build up to a picture rather than infodumping. The two main characters (hero and heroine) have block descriptions; for everyone else, I wove it in, sometimes adding progressively more detail that builds up across several chapters even.

Ah, well...this is all helping, so thanks to everyone.

CaroGirl
03-18-2007, 11:12 PM
Or maybe it's just one person's opinion and you shouldn't over-analyse it (I'm feeling a bit like the pot calling the kettle black, but...).

Keep submitting and see if you get the same reaction from anyone else. All the best!

maestrowork
03-18-2007, 11:19 PM
The only think I can think of is that

- too much dialogue, and not enough narrative -- the prose is too barebone
- too fast-paced
- too visual and not enough introspection/internal thoughts
- too much show and not enough tell

Post something in SYW and let's see....

blacbird
03-19-2007, 01:50 AM
Don't discount the possibility that this one agent is an idiot.

caw

Jamesaritchie
03-19-2007, 02:48 AM
- too much show and not enough tell
...

I doubt this is one of the options. Screenplays are mostly tell with darned little, if any, show.

Jamesaritchie
03-19-2007, 02:58 AM
Point taken, but how much is too much dialogue and how little is too little? That's why this advice is so confounding. I'll admit, my blocks of pure description without any dialogue are anywhere from two to three pages. Or maybe five pages with just one or two lines of dialogue. But isn't that within normal range? There isn't a single chapter with *just* dialogue. I tried to weave everything in together.

I guess some of this depends on the genre, too. Well, like I said above, maybe some beta reads would help. Maybe I'm on the other side of the continuum from someone like George R.R. Martin, lol! I mean, I love his books, but I gloss over his acres of detail at times.

I'm not sure there is an answer to how much dialogue is too much. It isn't really the amount of dialogue, but the necessity of the dialogue that matters. If there isn't a strong reason to have a character say something, the character should say nothing.

From the way it sounds, it may be you have plenty of description, possibly too much, but not nearly enough story narrative. Description is only one part of narrative, and often not even the important part.

The main part of any narrative is the storyline, which includes the character's internal thoughts and motivations, not the description. Too many blocks of pure description slow down any story, and will make it read like a screenplay to many eyes.

clara bow
03-19-2007, 06:18 AM
[quote=maestrowork;1202084]The only think I can think of is that

-- too visual and not enough introspection/internal thoughts

quote]

Now *that* is feedback I can use. And you haven't even read it! This point does resonate with me. There's lots of introspection/internal thoughts after the first three chaps, but not so much before then. And this does gel with what another agent said, that it wasn't "deep" enough (but I had no intention of making it deep anyway. it is what it is.). Funny, though, I hadn't thought that something could be *too* visual, but that makes sense. Maestrowork, you're the dude.

Thanks again everyone for helping me gain perspective on this.

clara bow
03-19-2007, 06:23 AM
The main part of any narrative is the storyline, which includes the character's internal thoughts and motivations, not the description. .

Yeah, this resonates, too, along with maestrowork's input. I found a beta reader for it, so I'll see what he thinks, too. Thanks!