On techniques borrowed from film by prose writers

by look i have opinions

“As a writer, one of the things we all learned from the movies was a kind of compression that didn’t exist before people were used to watching films. For instance, if you wanted to write a flashback in a novel, you once had to really contextualize it a lot, to set it up. Now, readers know exactly what you’re doing. Close-ups too. Writers can use filmic devices that we’ve all accepted so much that we don’t even see them as devices any more.”

—Salman Rushdie (here)

I spend a fair amount of time reading stuff from before the film era, so I was surprised to realize I wasn’t a hundred percent sure what Rushdie was talking about. It may be that I still read more as a reader than as a writer. I rarely notice what sorts of literary devices the authors choose not to use, let alone which ones they simply don’t have available.

When somebody talks about how the audience for the fine arts has changed over time, it’s usually a complaint, and usually about attention spans. It’s nice to be reminded that new media and mass entertainment also expand the kinds of things art can do.

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