The other day, an article by Lincoln Michel (“Why You Need to Read Fiction To Write Fiction”—please don’t come at me because of the inconsistency of to/To—this is the way the title is on the site) was brought to my attention. You can read it by clicking here. Anyway, if you don’t feel like reading the article, the author wrote it in response to a question posed somewhere on Twitter about whether or not reading is necessary, though I am surprised that question was asked. He mentioned
But there was something that stuck out to me in the tweets, which was the number of aspiring writers saying something along the lines of: “I can get all the ideas I need from TV and video games.”
When I read that, a light bulb clicked on in my head concerning a podcast I clicked off weeks ago before completing it. The podcast was dedicated to a discussion of Dune (2021). The group that produced the podcast had seen the movie but none had read the book nor seemed to have a desire to do so. (And no, I will not post a link to that podcast.) One person mentioned that someone explained the contents of the book to him, which I guess was good enough for him.
While I realize that a film adaptation needs to be its own animal, I stopped listening to the podcast, because having read the book, I wanted to hear thoughts on the effectiveness of translating the book to the screen. None of the people on the podcast could share that information. That’s why I couldn’t help thinking back to this podcast as I read the article mentioned above.
I’m not saying people HAVE TO read anything. But writing is hard work. So while I can understand the desire to gain inspiration from something you would prefer to do (watch a show or play a videogame), I resonate with what the film’s director, Denis Villeneuve, said in his forward to The Art and Soul of Dune by the film’s executive producer, Tanya Lapointe:
I kept Frank Herbert’s words very close to me as I designed and filmed this movie. Without his words, I would never have found my way through these scorched visions.
Before you yell at me for writing “something you would prefer to do,” this is the point of the debate on Twitter (from what I gather after reading the article). Those who voiced their opinions preferred not to read. Reading is something you have to slow down to do. Television shows and videogames are faster paced visual media that people used to high-speed internet can access quicker.
I play videogames, but don’t have a TV. However, the limitation of only using videogames or TV shows (as the article mentioned) to inform your writing quickly becomes apparent. You’re limited to the scope of what those creators have produced, which is why I have seen the same statements, ideas, and visual descriptions parroted all over the internet.
To read or not to read? Ultimately, that’s up to you. “As for me and my house” (that quote comes from a book by the way), I will read a book.
Books image from onkaparingacity.com. Denis Villeneuve photo from IMDb. Other photo by L. Marie.