Reading Film (Fall 2011)

a qwriting blog for ENG 110

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Diagramming the differences (and similarities)

September 18th, 2011 by Natalie Bernabe · 1 Comment · 1 Diagramming Difference

Thank you all for taking the time out of your busy schedules to come here today. I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase,” A picture is worth a thousand words.” The essence of film is embodied by this phrase since it is the collaboration of motion pictures.  The components that make up film have to tie in with one another; may it be the director to the portrayal of the scene, the actor to the camera, and all the other players that make a film worthwhile. Literature is a medium that uses words to depict different emotions and characters that would otherwise lay flat. These two mediums both have a number of similarities and differences that make it justifiable to have a film club here at Queens College.

One such similarity in both literature and film is the evidence of conflict. In any book or movie, you will find a situation; may it be small or large, relevant or irrelevant to the actual storyline. However, it will always be present. In books, the situation will help guide the story along, making a pathway for the characters to evolve, the plot increase, and create tension; such as in the novella Of Mice and Men. This is true for films as well, as seen in V for Vendetta, where the entire plot is circled around conflict and revolution. Another example of conflict in both these mediums is the matter of perspective. For film, we see the contrast of light and dark, sound to no sound, and movement to a still shot in A Space Odyssey; the opening scene with the monkeys. For some literature, it is the way the authors start their books; perhaps with a prologue or with the sentences broken up to create distortion. Thus creating a sense of conflict in the reader’s processing of the reading.

The main difference we see off the bat is the difficulty the author has to portray conflict using just words and paper, whereas the director has technology at his/her disposal in order to create a certain scene. The author portrays a scene with words that we, the readers, see in our mind’s eye and utilize it to visualize the scene. This leaves all the work to us, which can be imaginative and yet frustrating at times. Say for instance, an author is describing a meadow; of how green the grass is, and the feel of the wind lazily blowing by. We do have that picture in our mind, although it isn’t the same as seeing it on film, where everything is visual, and most films have sound to boot. Now, all the filmmaker has to do is direct which way the camera moves to catch our eye, which angle to shoot from, and how the actors will perform.

Another similarity between film and literature is an idea or point both the author and filmmaker strive to make the reader/viewer see or understand. For authors, it may be the chance to let their imagination flow in a narrative, or biography; putting one’s experiences of life on paper or making new ones altogether. It’s the expansion of their mind and allowing readers to partake in it, may it be a realistic or fictional based, as in Eragon, which was a fantasy novel by Christopher Paolini, of a young famer boy who embarks on a journey of a lifetime. For filmmakers, their idea may come as a warning, or a re-enactment of events that took place in the past. As in The Public Enemy, which held something to dwell on well after the movie was over;  a warning about crime in our society and our position in it.

An apparent difference between film and literature is the display of mechanics both mediums use to depict scenery. Whether it lies in an underwater kingdom or in the galaxies high above, authors and filmmakers leave it all to their imagination. For this, authors have the upper hand. While filmmakers can take months to make a certain scene with CGI, drawings, sketching, scripts and the works, the artists just needs to find the right words, and the rest is up to the readers. Films sometimes rely solely on their special effects to really grasp the filmgoer’s attention, not to mention the time consumed and the costs needed to make any kind of visual scene; it’s a long process. Although novelists do take time to sort out through drafts and their ideas, it’s much cheaper.

The style of films and works of literature are to be taken to account as well. It isn’t merely words strung together in a book, or a script laid out in perfect order; it’s the tone that comes from the writer or director’s inner character. Both of them are constructing a dialogue that the reader/viewer can relate to or disagree with or even be inspired by. In The Shawshank Redemption, the movie’s dialogue was a bit tense and yet the story flowed seamlessly as it showed the one man’s perseverance even in the direst situations. In Fahrenheit 451, the author wrote about one lone firefighter’s decision to keep a book, in a world where they were just ashes in a fire, and it depicted survival in a world of lost hope. Another thing movies and books will have in common concerning style is symbols and motif that are shown throughout a film if we pay close enough attention. Some authors and directors will have specific motifs and signatures’, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s signature cameos in his films.

The medium of film and literature are two very distinct subjects that we have only grazed the surface upon. Hopefully, this presentation has helped you to make a decision about whether Queens College should have a film club. There is also a diagram available for your viewing on a separate piece of paper. This is just to further indulge in the definite differences and similarities these two mediums have. Film and literature both have an objective to evoke certain emotions upon the viewer/reader through characters and a strong plot. The means of which each medium reaches this certain goal differs; film with its action scenes and expressions, and literature with words and literary devices.


I tried uploading the flowchart i made online, which actually didn’t print (which was why it was handwritten), so i will be writing it as a list here(outlined version):

Literature    &    Film:


Conflict: A present situation will be at hand, and both use perspective as a focal point to get the reader’s attention.

Idea: The author/filmmaker has an idea or point they want the viewer/reader to understand or disagree with.

Style: Both mediums will have different tones that ‘speak’ to the viewer/reader during the film/book, thus creating a sense of familiarity.


Conflict: For literature, the author portrays a conflicting scene for us to view in our mind’s eye, we do all the work.

For film, the conflict is shown to us visually and by hearing, now all filmmaker has to do is direct the camera to grab our attention.

Scenery: For literature, all the author needs to do is describe the scene to us, and we will depict it in our mind’s eye, regardless of what it may be.

For film, the filmmakers rely on cgi and images to show us a scene, which is time consuming and costly.


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One Comment so far ↓

  • Kevin L. Ferguson

    Hi Natalie,

    I know Harvey would say that your second sentence is a cliche–I point that out because there’s an opportunity there for you to better integrate KEYTERMS in your opening essay. The reason a cliche is no good is that it reduces your argument to something really simple; why would people even need to keep reading if it can be summarized in one easy expression? For revision, I’d like to see you think about the particular qualities of film and literature that you want to talk about, and name those. Along those lines, notice how the last sentence of your first paragraph doesn’t do that either? You could better indicate your STRUCTURE to your readers by saying in that final sentence what the similarities and differences are.

    Along those same lines, the fist sentence of your second paragraph is a good example of keyterms–I can expect you to elaborate more on the concept of “conflict,” which you do, and then if I see the word “conflict” repeated I will understand what you mean. Compare that to how you begin the fourth paragraph: “Another similarity . . . is an idea or point both the author and filmmaker strive to make the reader/viewer see or understand.” Without a keyterm there to represent the basic idea or opposition you are discussing, it is more difficult to follow your train of thought.

    One last thing about structure is to point out how you begin the last 3 or 4 paragraphs: “Another similarity between film and literature is…” “An apparent difference between film and literature is . . .” “The style of films and works of literature are to be taken to account as well.” Thinking about Harvey’s idea of a progressive order, I think you could revise these beginnings to better show a direction of development or progress. As it is, it seems like these three paragraphs could be in any order, rather than have a logical order they must follow.

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