Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Lights, Camera.....Slideshow?

I've started work on a book trailer for my upcoming short story, The Lost Highway. Not because I'm convinced it's the promotional jackpot some think it is, nor because I believe it comes close to the marketing impact of movie trailers they're trying to emulate, but because my story is part of a whole. An unknown space occupied in an anthology. Twelve stories connected by tiny threads of location and vague notions of theme, but so entirely different from one another a potential reader can't possibly know what to expect.

And, it's something else to whittle away moments when the writing slows to a trickle and the words become viscous. An act taken in the spirit of writing. An attempt to loosen the creativity.

The first thing I wrestled with was exactly how much to tell. A teaser implies vagueness and strong, captivating images that may not necessarily give the audience a formidable picture of the story, but leaves them wanting more, nevertheless. Putting a back cover blurb into the trailer injects more words on the screen with the potential for a more cluttered effect, but gives a more focused impression to help the consumer make a choice. Which is more effective?

I've also wrestled with the slide-show effect versus taking a digital movie camera out onto a desolate highway and creating the trailer I have in my mind. Would it come out something close to a torturous home video, or a stand out in a sea of Powerpoint-like promotion?

A huge part of a trailer's success, for me, is music. Without benefit of a highly-paid deep-toned voice-over, the notes and movements of the song become almost as important as the words. After sampling dozens of royalty-free tracks, some better than others, I landed upon two songs that evoke the emotion I hope to bring out in a viewer. Used in succession, my hope is the first will set the tone for the conflict and the second will speak more about my character.

I've finished most of the trailer, but one graphic eludes me--the perfect glimpse of an image that will hook the viewer and leave him or her wanting to know more. With the almost infinitesimal number of images available on search engines with a few choice keystrokes, it sounds simple. Laser, almost. But finding something known only to the writer's "camera eye" is not only difficult. Finding an image that will do it justice is next to impossible.

Stephen King once wrote about his disappointment at having Jack Nicholson cast as the main character in The Shining. When he wrote the story, he hoped to explore the total plunge into insanity we are all capable of. His protagonist was to be everyman, a glimpse into ourselves as the reader. In this lies the true horror of the story. Jack Nicholson, however, brought to the screen a certain measure of insanity to the character already, thus diminishing the audience's emotional engagement.

How many times have you watched a movie translated from book to screen and been disappointed? Seen a glimpse of the protagonist on a book's cover and realize it's nothing like what we had in mind. Countless. As saturated as popular media is in our culture, it still can't do justice to what our own fantasies can create. Even more so for writers, who've occupied the same mental plane through the entire gestation of the project. Are screenwriters ever truly satisfied?

Who knows if I'll capture that perfect image, or even be satisfied with the final outcome? In the attempt, I will have translated obscurity into something a potential reader can sink into, if only for a moment or two.

What is your opinion of book trailers? What aspects are effective at holding your interest? Which ones are not as effective?


Todd Wheeler said...

I haven't been swayed by book trailers to date, but then haven't seen many either. At the moment, might be in the category of "Can't hurt, could help".

What software are you using to create the trailer?

Marilyn Brant said...

I've seen a few really nice book trailers, but I'm curious about them as a writer and, so, will seek them out. I'm not sure yet of their impact on potential buyers/readers who aren't also novelists, though.

Happy New Year, L.A. :)!

Andrea Geist said...

Hey honey, I haven't seen any book trailers. I think this is a new untapped marketing tool to be explored - only time will tell if the book trailer is a success. I agree with your friend Todd, can't hurt.