Assignment: Prose vs. TV and Film


Because television and movies are the dominant narrative art forms of the twenty-first century, it is likely that each of us has spent more hours watching TV and movies than reading prose fiction.

 

Consequently, as young writers we often write in a very cinematic style—our narrators are omniscient and can be everywhere, and yet cannot see into the characters’ heads. This remote psychic distance is the point of view of a camera.

 

To succeed as authors of novels and short stories, we need to overcome the influence of TV and movies, close the psychic distance in our stories, and use techniques available to prose authors that are not available to screenwriters. This assignment will help you recognize how limited the camera's POV is, and how versatile the third-person limited can be.

 

Assignment Description

For this assignment, you will select one of Stephen Spielberg’s films that was based on an original screenplay, not a novel or short story. E.T., Close Encounters, and Indiana Jones are acceptable, Jaws and The Color Purple are not. If you want to choose another film, it must be approved by your instructor.

 

Next, watch the opening scenes and translate them into prose, as if they were the opening of a novel. Choose one character in the scene (it doesn’t have to be the main character) and tell the story from their point of view, third-person limited.

 

Your completed piece should be between 6-8 pages long and should end when the scene ends. In other words, don’t just stop when you hit 6 pages.