I’m currently working on a novel high school kids in revolt and a play about comic book writers building a universe–two different stories with different characters, engaging with completely different worlds.
A friend asked this week, “how do you determine which stories are books, which ones are plays, and which one would be movies?” Great question.
It sounds trite, but when struck with an idea for a story, the story typically lends itself to a particular medium. For example, the novel about high schoolers functions as one character’s recollection of a series of events. The events of the story triggered an internal change in the narrator, a change he attempts to walk back by telling the story to the reader (a prime example of my belief that some of the most important learning we do in this life is unlearning falsities instilled within us).
Because so much of the conflict and change occurs on an internal level, brought about by the act of telling the story, this particular piece lends itself to prose. Simply put, it’s a story that wants to be a novel.
In contrast, the play about comic book writers centers on competing recollections of events. The story alternates between a comic writer’s recollection of events and the recollection of his partner, the comic artist. By offering this material on a stage, one character can narrate events to the audience while the action plays out behind him in direct contradiction to his recounting.
Presenting competing versions of events onstage allows for these two characters to step out of the action of the scenes and engage in conflict over whose recounting is accurate. This ultimately serves as the central conflict of the play, leaving the audience to play referee and decide who wins: the writer or the artist.
Ultimately, the needs of every story are different. It falls to the storyteller to determine which tools and what medium are most beneficial for telling that story as it needs to be told.