A blog article by Bonniejean Alford (Educator, Activist, World Citizen)
When sitting down to read a book it becomes necessary for the story to come alive. As one reads, it should be as if a reader can see the story unfold on an imaginary movie screen in their head. As a writer, this is the goal for me. And as a reader, these are the books I seek out. While many books have accomplished this task for me throughout my life, only one author has consistently achieved this time and time again.
The author of which I speak is Dean Koontz. But let us focus on two particular books, simply because to speak of the power in his writing, one must also be made aware of the only book by him that I believe loses the power that he so often wields.
But let me back up a minute. I began reading Koontz’s work when I was 11 or 12. The first story I read was an adult fairy tale, of all things (Oddkins). Despite the illustrations, I was mesmerized by this author’s word style. I sought out other books by Koontz and have over the years read at least twenty of his over a hundred stories. I have a goal of reading each and every book he writes (which keeps getting more difficult each time he publishes another book).
Several years ago I came upon the book Odd Thomas and as usual fell in love with the magic of the story, one that possibly challenges the imagination in ways I never thought possible. Essentially, the story is one of a man that sees dead people. Yes, I know and recognize that this is a story done many times by many authors. But the character of Odd, is well odd. And Koontz, in his unique style has made him real to me. As the journey of the book unfolds, I can see the story take place, as if I am right beside Odd, traveling the same journey with him.
As the years progressed, Koontz has written other books with Odd at its center (Forever Odd, Brother Odd, and Odd Hours). I have yet to read them all due to time constraints, but plan to. In addition to the novels about Odd Thomas that have been written, Koontz has also taken a great risk by creating a graphic novel with Odd at the center. The book is titled In Odd We Trust and in many ways the story mirrors that of the original novel, but lacks any story telling.
Much like other graphic novels, the story is told through a series of pictures depicting what you are meant to see, rather than all for the imagination of the “reader” to see what it chooses to create. With only a few words here and there, ultimately the lack of words takes away from the power of the story, a story that Koontz has worked so diligently to build over the course of several novels.
While I must acknowledge the irony in my disappointment with this work in that the first Koontz work I read was one that was illustrated, I cannot deny my disappointment, not to mention my apprehension in even reading Koontz’s graphic novel about Odd Thomas. I did so simply because Koontz “wrote” it (with illustrator by Queenie Chan of course).
To be fair, over the years I have tried to read other graphic novels, but never could make it beyond page one, even when I was acquainted with the creator. I have always felt that the story must come alive in the mind of the reader, not forced upon them with pictures decided by someone else. Even books that I have read that are illustrated, such as Oddkins, have done so in a manner that enhanced the story. That is, it wasn’t THE story, but rather pieces of the story that work to give one possible image. A graphic novel such as the one created by Koontz and his illustrator Quennie Chan is designed to be the ONLY way to view the story.
And this is not fair to a reader.
While taking risks is a great thing for a writer, you also need to recognize your fan base. Maybe Koontz was trying to reach out to a different group of people with his amazing story of Odd Thomas, but something is missing. And quite frankly, those he is reaching out to in the hopes of gaining new fans may never read the word laden versions of the very same story, which is quite a shame. After all, it is the words that are meant to spring to life the imagination of a reader; an imagination that leads to creativity within oneself; and a creativity that leads to self direction within the world as a whole.
Reading is ultimately more than just a lesson in how to put words together. Rather, reading is meant to open the doors of the mind to all possibilities of life, no matter how far fetched and likely improbable. It is in this recognition that the impact of television, movies, and even graphic novels can be seen. Too often, the picture is simply given to a reader, who is told what to see by the images put forth before them, rather than have an opportunity to experience the images within themselves, as they might imagine them to unfold.
Simply put, it seems as though fewer people are reading full length novels. Why should they when picture books are being created for them; when television and movies do all the work for them?
As an author I am saddened by this fact, even though as I write I do so with a hope that my novels will be made into movies, which I suppose is a bit hypocritical. In that light, I have to recognize that the world I live in has changed and I as an author and a member of the society for which I belong MUST seek out the best way to market the stories that I pen, even if the end result is a picture being laid out before the reader.
In the end, my saying the above is in response to the part of me that longs for the way that once was, where words were really capable of being the most powerful weapon of all.