Hey guys today we’re going to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of various storytelling mediums like books vs movies, that kind of thing. I’ll also talk about which forms are my favorite methods to tell a story, and why.
We can tell a lot of different stories, and we have many different forms of media to tell those stories. While there are many different mediums, I’m only going to talk about the following: Literature, film, television, comic books, video games, and audio dramas.
Literature is, in my opinion, the most powerful form of storytelling. Its biggest strength is that it works the imagination. In fact, books have been proven to be one of the best ways to increase cognitive power, intelligence, and intellect. And that’s not necessarily only for people who read a lot of smart stuff. Just reading will help your brain. I love books because they allow us to get inside the heads of our characters like no other medium. I love character development, and nothing facilitates character development better than a good book.
Books also leave everything to the imagination, which increases reader investment in the book (since they basically become co-creators with the author). Unfortunately, this strength is also its weakness. Most other mediums have a visual aspect that books lack. A creative imagination can make up for this, but many have less interest in books because of its lack of visuals.
Film is regarded by some as the most powerful form of media. I respectfully disagree. Film can do a lot, and it’s certainly one of the most entertaining, but when it comes to telling a story, it’s kind of limiting. The biggest advantage film has is that it usually comes with a bigger budget, which can then be used for elaborate sets, star power, or really awesome special effects. Most other mediums don’t have this advantage, so they learn to make more with less.
The biggest disadvantage of film comes from it’s length. Because honestly, two hours is not really enough time to tell a deep story. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but when you’re trying to establish setting, tell a plot, and develop characters, you just need a little more time. That’s why I tend to like a lot of 3-hour films or a series of films. I find the trilogy to be one of the most effective formats for film because it gives you time to tell a more complete story. I mean, imagine if this was the only Luke Skywalker we knew. Luke’s character becomes so much more interesting in the sequels to Star Wars, as do many of the other characters.
I’m going to pause here and talk about short stories and short films. Much of what I just said for literature and film still applies. But I like shorter stories, because they (by necessity) must do more with less, so the quality sometimes improves. But I’ll have more to say about short stories at a later date.
So back to the main mediums. Television is my personal favorite of each of these mediums, because I feel it combines some of the best of each. While it’s perhaps not as immersive as a book or video game, it also isn’t limited by the lack of visuals in a book, or the short timespan of a film. Television doesn’t have the budget that film has, although some high-profile shows like The Walking Dead, Agents of SHIELD, or Once Upon a Time actually have pretty strong budgets. A lack of film-level budget usually results in a greater focus on plot and character in a television show, and since they have more time to tell the story, the plot and characters can get quite complex. I mean, just look at the character development in shows like Breaking Bad or Daredevil.
Video Games often follow a similar format to film, but they have one major advantage, interaction. They allow us to participate in a story, making them one of the most immersive mediums yet. In fact, I often get a similar feeling from a video game as I do from reading a book. It’s a very similar immersive experience. Video Games also provide some of the best bang for your buck because your gameplay experience will never be exactly the same. This is especially true of games like RPGs, where you can choose multiple paths. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure book on steroids.
The biggest disadvantage of video games is that, because it focuses on gameplay, you will often lose the story. We saw this recently with Bungie’s Destiny, which had really good gameplay overall, but you kind of forget about the story while you play it, which makes everything confusing. In my opinion, this is also why video games don’t translate well to other mediums. Besides, I think video games don’t need adaptations, they stand fine on their own.
Comic books rely heavily on art, its strongest asset. A comic book can have great writing, but without great art, it falls flat. Comic books uniquely rely on art like no other medium, and they can be breathtakingly beautiful as a result. Action translates well to comic books, making them a powerful medium. They do, however, lack a few nuances that you can pick up in film or television acting, and they also make it difficult to get into a character’s head like you can in a novel. Visually, comic books are a powerful medium, and I’ve read a few that feel like poetry, but you need to be careful to avoid superficial plots and characters.
Audio Dramas are an old form of storytelling that almost died off, but it’s coming back thanks to podcasting, especially podcasts like Serial or Hunt the Truth. They have a similar advantage to literature because it leaves a lot to the imagination. However, it sometimes becomes hard to explain the action of a scene without a cheesy narrator. As such, audio dramas usually focus on stories that don’t require a lot of visuals. Serial is a great example of this since it was told by a reporter as if they were talking on a podcast, so it felt natural when she explained what happened in a scene.
There are other ways to tell a story (like theater or online media), but this covers most of them. I was going to talk about new media a bit, but that’s so expansive I thought I’d save it for it’s own video later on.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about these mediums. Which one is your favorite? Are there any other strengths or weaknesses you’d like to add? Leave a comment below with your answers.
And in the meantime, live your dream and tell your story.