I last wrote about the book as object. Not so much the content of books, but their physical being, their presence in the landscape of one’s life. This week, after helping K with an assignment in which she had to use a little drawing and as the starting point for a whole story, and after struggling with another project of mine in which I need to weave a story out of some didactic principles, I have been thinking more about the contents of books, and effective storytelling. And before I go further, I have to share with you this trailer for Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes for a look at a fascinating experiment with the book form, and the creation of a story.
I came across this as I did what I should have done two years ago, which is post my own book trailer on YouTube. It’s been available since its creation in 2010 on Vimeo and the web site for Faint Promise of Rain, and on Facebook, but for some reason I hadn’t yet posted it on YouTube. As I did so, I wondered what the state of the Book Trailer is these days. Every six months or so, I take a look at what else is out there in this form, to see how other writers are using audio-visual media to entice readers. And I’m still struck by how the majority of book trailers out there use a fairly flat combination of still images (sometimes “animated” to float across the screen, or fade in and out, but nonetheless essentially still) with a soundtrack and some words on the screen (not necessarily taken from the book itself, which baffles me) and maybe an awkward appearance of the author him/herself being interviewed in a mock-improvised setting. Even those for books by successful and well-known authors, even trailers created by publishers, who presumably still have a (albeit dwindling) publicity budget for the books they put out.
And yet, the trailers that are the most enticing to me are the ones that are themselves artistic works of creativity, and which tell a story on their own. The story of why one must pick up the book and read it. The story of why one should care. There are purists out there, those who decry the use of video to promote a book, but why shouldn’t one do so? At the fingertips of writers now are so many means through which to communicate a story, to have it take root, take life, in someone else’s consciousness. Isn’t this the whole point of writing? To be able to say: Look, here is this story, it is gorgeous, it is magical, it will give you goose bumps, it will lighten your heart or wring it dry, it will make you laugh and make you cry, it will send you skipping in the sun, it will reduce you to a trembling heap when done, it will live with you always. Maybe it will change your life, maybe it will help you with a decision, maybe it will give you a necessary escape. Maybe you will see yourself in it, or your father, or your friend. Why not embrace all the possible ways of conveying it?
I will always put words first in my own storytelling. I love playing with them, the rhythms and cadences they create, mellifluous or staccato, susurrating or jagged. But in my efforts to share Faint Promise of Rain, I am looking forward to including images with the words, and not only images but movement in the form of dance and sound in the form of music. And if I could also add smells to the experience, I would do it in a heartbeat.
Have you seen any book trailers lately? Any particularly good ones? Does the term “trailer” put you off, or entice you? Do they seem like gimmicks, or a good way to draw in a potential reader?