Storytelling Formats

This page is a little attempt to compare 3 media formats: television, books and films. What influence does the media have on the story you wish to tell, or what stories does the format actually allow? Read on and find the results! Of course this is subjective.

Do you think the text on this page look pretty? It's because it uses the Helvetica font. Arial is the poor cousin of Helvetica, just a cheap rip-off.

Story Property




(when do you get your story)
You only get your story when a broadcaster decides you get it. You have to fit your life around the decisions of others.

Unless you buy the series on DVDs.
When the cinema decides to open. You have a limited choice during which time of day you choose to see it and run of the film is usually limited.

Unless you buy the film on DVD, but few home systems can create the cinema experience. Many films aren't made to be shown on small screens.
After a book is published, at any time. You can easily bring a book with you on the train or on the plane. You may read your book in the middle of the night without annoying your neighbours. It fits around the needs of your ordinary life.
Who pays and how
You pay with your time, the time it takes to sit through the commercials, plus time it takes to sit through embarrassingly obvious product placement.

Unless you buy the series on DVD.
You pay with the money for the cinema tickets plus the time it takes to sit through the commercials in the cinema, also with the annoyance of overtly obvious product placement.
You pay for the book.
Story constraints imposed by medium.
On commercial television, quite severe.

No upsetting stories

The stories that can be told are limited by constraints imposed by the needs of the advertisers. Advertisers won't buy a slot in the middle of a series that has a really upset audience, or an audience that's angry or very sad. They want a happy audience, susceptible to the commercial message of the adverts. Therefore TV series will always have to conform both to the tastes of the mainstream TV audiences AND the advertisers simultaneously. TV will therefore never be really hot or really cold, but MUST stay lukewarm.

None too challenging stories
Mass appeal is also a must, so therefore a story should not be too challenging either. The necessity of dumbing down to the least common denominator has resulted in reality TV becoming huge.

20something adults acting like teens
Acting in a TV show is a full time job, this creates a problem with teenage characters who have to be acted by actors who look much older. With adults acting like teens, instead of looking their age, they look childish for their age.

No effective problem resolution
Stories get dragged out, the protagonists don't kill off or decisively defeat the villains despite having opportunity to do so, instead leaving unsolved problems around to keep threateing their own lives and their loved ones. Conveniently, because then they can be reused for later episodes. This makes villains look less threatening and protagonists look incompetent.
Cost is a big problem, especially in Hollywood. Even films that look cheap costs millions and millions to make. This translates into niche films with a smaller audience also have to be made really cheap, or not filmed at all.

The reason it took 50 years after the publishing of Lord of the Rings for it to be filmed is technology. Before that time, the tech to make the movies look good enough simply was not around. There are many more scifi stories out there in the books that still defy films because of technology.


Because a movie has limited running length (max 3 hours or so), there is less time to explore the characters, their motivations and their development.
Less Emotional Impact
Books do not drive their readers to tears, fears or goosebumps as easily as say, films.

Social Lack of Usefulness

Going to the cinema or watching TV is a social pastime and especially cinema has a place when meeting friends or as a classic feature of a date.
Story benefits by mediumCharacterisation
A long running TV series leave room for character backgrounds to be explored and for characters to grow and develop.
Films move audience to tears, fears and goosebumps.
Thinking big
Big and complex concepts are easily described in books.


Inner monologues and backgrounds are easily explored in books.

So yeah, I'm not a big fan of television at all, and I much prefer cinema and books. There, I said it.


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