Form vs. Content

Before the symposium tomorrow, I want to get my current opinion out on the idea of form vs. content, unaltered from the discussion that will inevitably take place surrounding the importance of form as opposed to the material within it. No doubt the phrase “the medium is the message” (Marshall McLuhan) will come up, and whilst I’m not against the idea that form is important and that it has an important role in shaping the content, I think everything  – in a perfect world – should be done for the benefit of the story. This is naturally a subjective point of view, and I’m not saying it is or isn’t correct, just that personally, I tend to put a great emphasis on the story as opposed to the platform or technology it is written for. I don’t believe a story should be written for anything, but at it’s purest is an idea which then has to be adapted for the technology available or intended.

This brings me to something I wrote not too long ago for an online writing profile, which although somewhat exaggerated, explains quite well my view of which is more important – form or content:

"When faced with the myriad of careers that my school career adviser suggested, I thought that there couldn't be anything more exciting than film making. To see characters come to life, watch their stories unfold in person, know that you have created a visual piece of art with a compelling story that people can watch and experience your vision through. 

Except, the film industry is nothing like this. It's boring and it's controlled, and it's not the magical mixture of music, design, acting and direction that I once thought it was. I found it exciting that these things could combine to tell a story, only to find - now that I am studying film - that 'the story is not important.'

Well, I refuse to except that. The story is everything. I live for characters and their quirks, what sends them on their journeys, how they cope, why they're loveable. And then it occurred to me: maybe I should try writing. Just writing, without greater purpose or with the allure of a future film or project in mind. And I loved it."

As I said, the view I put forward in this profile is exaggerated, but mostly it rings true. I haven’t completely given up on film, and believe it can be an incredible platform for storytelling, especially when the writer has artistic direction over the production, but its in this way that the form controls the story rather than the story controlling the form.


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