Friday 5 May 2017

Adding Sound and Image

by Jeanette O'Hagan

It's been one of those days, with a sick child, shuffling between doctor appointments and scans, and then the school concert this evening. Not quite what I planned as I pull my thoughts together late at night. Yet, I've be mulling over this idea for a few weeks while reading The Everything Guide to Writing Graphic Novels by Mark Ellis and Melissa Martin Ellis. Yep, that's right Graphic Novels.

When writing our stories - whether fiction or non-fiction - we think target audience and genre, traditional versus Indie publishing, print or e-book (or maybe both), picture book or chapter book (if we write for children) or even poetry or prose, but there are some other options that we may not have considered.

I've been pondering three ways of adding sound and/or image to our story telling.


With so many great movies these days based on books, who hasn't thought about their book becoming a movie. Just think of Indie author Andy Weir, whose book The Martian became a block-buster movie.  If only, some savvy director will pick up our book and launch it on the big screen.

It great to daydream, but one possibility is to write our story as a script - whether for a two hour movie or a TV series, and then pitch it to networks and movie makers.

Books and movies approach storytelling in different ways, have different limitations and possibilities. Movies (generally) are more stream-lined, are visual, fast-paced and focus on action and (short, sharp) dialogue. Most movie adaption of necessity simplifies the plot, cuts down the number of characters. A TV series can be more faithful to the novel (think BBC Pride and Prejudice mini-series versus any of the movie adaptations). A movie can 'show' in a way a novel can't. The setting can be presented in a single frame, in loving detail which would take pages to write (as many 19th centuries authors did).

On the other hand, good novels take us inside the head of the characters. They also give us the room to exercise our own imagination, to co-create with the author. Movies struggle to convey internal thoughts, though a good actor can convey a lot through body language, tone of voice, posture etc.

Of course, we often bemoan that the movie is nowhere as good as the book. Yet, how often have we been totally enthralled by a good movie or hooked by a TV series. There are different ways of storytelling with different powers to engage. One way to explore that is to explore script writing or, perhaps, to speak to a script writer.

Sound recordings

Another opportunity to reach a wider audience is to produce an audio-tape of your book. Many people for various reasons now consume their fiction and non-fiction through audio.  This may be as they commute or preform mundane tasks, thus making best use of their time or because they take in more through audio channels. Or it could be that due to age or other reasons, reading is now difficult if not impossible.

Once again, reading a book is a different experience to hearing it read for us. Though, how many of us first learned our love for books in the laps of reading parents, grandparents or perhaps teachers and Pajama Angels?  When we hear a book read, it adds another dimension to the experience and can be enjoyed in situations where usually it's impractical to read a book, e.g. driving a car, doing the ironing, having a shower (though I know of a friend who could manage that feat).

There are different options from companies that will convert your novel or story to audio for a price, to entities like Audible that do it for little or no upfront fees in return for a portion of the royalties. Whichever option is chosen, the choice of narrator (or narrators) is surely of great importance, from the quality of his or her voice, to their skill in dramatic narration. Nothing can put a person to sleep faster than a monotone.

Graphic Novels

Graphic Novels are becoming increasingly popular among teens, but also among adults and fandoms. Once again, this is a medium that may reach a different audience, an audience who are reluctant to read books.  For instance, The Action Bible presents biblical narrative in a way that engages young people and that can provide a bridge to reading. Production of graphic novels with digital artwork and print on demand printers means it is now more accessible for independent artists.

Graphic Novels use a combination of pictures and text to tell the story - often in panels as in a comic book. Thus they have writers and artists - and traditionally may require a penciller (who does the intial drawings), an inker, a letterer and a colourist. Or sometimes the writer and artist are one. Both the script and the artwork are important to the story and need to work in concert. Obviously, long speeches without action may be problematical in a graphic novel. On the other hand, internal thoughts can be shown through thought bubbles. The artwork often uses exaggerated poses or easily identifiable features to show character, emotion and body language. One might also choose between a more Western approach (think D C Comics and Marvel) or Japanese Anime and Manga (Spirited Away or Howl's Moving Castle) or a blend of the two (Avatar: The Last Air Bender).

The Graphic Novel is perhaps more often used for Children's and Young Adult stories, or for Superhero, Crime, Adventure and Speculative Fiction, though it has also been effectively used for memoir, historical stories and biblical narratives.

Venturing forth

Each of these media have unique challenges and needs for story telling. Not all stories make good movies or graphic novels. These media are also require collaboration - much as an illustrator in the picture book is a co-author, so too the director, set designers and actors, the narrator or the visual artist can add different and new dimensions to the story. We as authors may find that threatening. On the other hand, thinking about how our story might translate in different media can help us think differently and perhaps more creatively, even if we don't venture forth in the world beyond text.

I've been thinking about sound recordings and graphic novel for Heart of the Mountain, or writing a script about my uncle's life story. Whether that ever becomes a reality or not, it's been fun imagining it to be so.

What about you? Have you ever considered your story in a different media than text alone? If so what? Have you forayed into one or more of these areas? If so, what pointers and tips would you give those of us standing at the borderlands, wondering whether to enter? And a bonus question, what Christian novel would you love to see as a movie, audio-recording or graphic novel?

Images © Jeanette O'Hagan

Jeanette O’Hagan first started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing.

Her Nardvan stories span continents, time and cultures. They involve a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and/or shapeshifters and magic users.

Recent publications include Heart of the Mountain: a short novellaThe Herbalist's Daughter: a short story and Lakwi's Lament: a short story. Her other short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies including Glimpses of Light, Another Time Another Place and Like a Girl. Jeanette is also writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and a Master of Arts (Writing). She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life and communicating God’s great love. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

Find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or on Amazon or on her websites or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes . if you want to stay up-to-date with latest publications and developments, sign up to Jeanette O'Hagan Writes e-mail newsletter.  


  1. Great ideas, Jeanette. I'd love to have audio versions of my (future) books. I don't listen to audiobooks myself, but it's about making the book available in the format your target reader (listener?) might be interested in.

    I hadn't thought of graphic novels, but it's an obvious idea for fantasy or sci-fi.

    The other thought I'd had was making a large-print version available for those who have reading difficulties.

    1. Thanks Iola. I love the idea of large-print versions too for certain target audiences. (PS I had a few computer problems Friday & was at the Writing Retreat over the weekend with abysmal internet. Hence the late reply.)

  2. Interesting post, Jeanette. I've grown to really enjoy listening to audiobooks, and the actors who read them can really affect the story. I'd be really keen to know the results of your audiobook investigations. As for graphic novels, we recently borrowed a couple of Jane Austen graphic novels from our library. Fantastic to have my son finally 'read' Pride and Prejudice!

    1. Thanks Carolyn. I am sure the choice of narrator/speech actor could make a huge difference to how enjoyable the audio-book is. And I love the idea of a Jane Austen graphic novel. I should look out for that one.

  3. You're so right about the potential of audio-books. I really only listen to them on the long interstate car trips, but am constantly amazed at just how effective even books I know well can be when you are given the incentive to take note of every word (as opposed to skim reading!) Thanks for reminding me that I'd always thought my verse novel, 'A Promise of Peaches', would make an interesting audio-book, with five different readers taking the five speaker roles. Maybe I'll do more than just think about this ...

    1. Hi Valerie - love that this has inspired you to think of making a audio-book of 'A Promise of Peaches'. I think that could be effective.

  4. This is great! I love what you have to say about thinking outside the box with our writing. I do this naturally being a Filmmaker and Novelist, but I forget what an impact the two different forms of storytelling can have on the other. As far as advice for people wanting to explore how to put their stories into screenplay format, there's a wealth of information at The Independent Initiative blog site. In particular, as I read this post, I kept thinking of one I read there:

    1. Thanks Charis. Appreciate your insights and the link. It even mentions comic books :) Will have to follow it up :)

  5. What a thought-provoking and interesting post, and I really hope you do work on the project of making a graphic novel version of 'Heart of the Mountain.' I can imagine it would work exceptionally well, with lots of scope for fantastic images (and quite a bit of darkness too). My daughter loves Manga, and spends a lot of time sketching her own. Sometimes I wonder what our beloved nineteenth century authors would think of the visual and auditory retellings of their stories. They'd be overwhelmed, as they'd never have imagined anything like it. Once, someone who was interested in animation mentioned taking my Quenarden books away to work on, but that was years ago, and I'd forgotten until I'd read your final question :)

    1. Thanks Paula. One point I was wondering about, if I did convert Heart of the Mountain to graphic novel, is whether to go with the USA comic tradition or draw inspiration from Manga. My daughter & two nieces were really into Manga at one point, I think many young people are. And interesting thought with your Quenarden trilogy - if not an animation, then maybe graphic novels.

    2. That's a decision I don't envy you having to make. The Manga style is such a draw card for young people, that's for certain. It's helped give my two youngest a general fascination with Japan too.

    3. Yes, not easy. Will have to ponder some more.

  6. Great post Jenny. I'd love to see more graphic novels with a Christian worldview. I've looked at the stacks in my library a few times, but so many of them have dark themes. I think Heart of the Mountain would make a great graphic novel.

    I also listened to my first audiobook this year - 'Portuguese Irregular Verbs', a humorous novel by Alexander McCall Smith. It was narrated by Hugh Laurie from House and Blackadder fame, so that really added to the experience.

    Thanks for prompting us to think about different avenues for storytelling. I'll look forward to the all-singing, all-dancing version of Heart of the Mountain :)

    1. LOL Nola - of course, Heart of the Mountain, the musical :) Love the sound of 'Portuguese Irregular Verbs' such a quirky title. I'll have to look out for that one when I do my audio-book for the Popsugar reading challenge.

    2. That's why I did it. It's about a straight-laced German professor and the quirky situations he gets into while trying to get recognition for his definitive textbook 'Portuguese Irregular Verbs'. Fairly dry, understated humour, but some genuinely funny moments. One of Alexander's earlier books and the first in a series, though I haven't read the others.


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