I have recently heard from some literary agents that my book, my opening chapters, reads like a screenplay. Now, this is a minority view. Most agents just think my opening chapters are beautifully written but cannot personally represent it because they don't represent my genre. My genre being Christian fiction. Despite on their website, they said they do represent my genre but apparently it's on a limited basis. But regardless, when I gave my novels to beta-readers for the past two years. They never compared my work to a screenplay. They just said that it was a very clean read and they enjoyed my writing. When I asked one specifically about this, they said no. It doesn't read like a screenplay but by reading my chapters, they have a cinematic feel. This echoes from another beta-reader that my chapters have a cinematic feel but never reading like a screenplay. Should I ignore the feedback from that minority of agents?

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    The title asks what the agents' feedback meant, but the body of the question asks whether you should ignore said feedback. Could you clarify which of those two things you're asking asking?
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 14:24
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    I see this critique often for comic creators. In that context, it means scenes are structured around dialog, especially how plots unfold and characters discover things. Also, a lot of continuity from scene to scene (car dialog, establishing exterior shots) as would be structured by film/TV editing to orient the viewer. It's not an insult at craft or marketability – readers are presumed familiar with broadcast media structure, but implies the work is not using the 'unique strengths' of the comic medium. And also a bias that the writer's influences are not "the classics".
    – wetcircuit
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 17:18
  • @wetcircuit Wow. You just enlightened me. So, I take it this is a good thing. Thanks.
    – user42900
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 17:21
  • Related: What makes the writing style of The Dynasts so distinctive? (how a classical piece of literature has been described as "cinematic" even though it was written before cinema was a thing) Commented Sep 23, 2020 at 8:33

1 Answer 1


Generally a screenplay is all dialog and plot, and it's all external. So when a book is written like a screenplay, it means it has very little description, and that the internal life of the characters is not depicted. It also means you're doing all showing, no telling (which some people think is a good thing for a book and others don't).

The upside is that people these days tend to think cinematically already. The downside is that you're not taking advantage of any of the things that make books special and unique. So you should probably either write a screenplay instead of a book, or work on bringing more of a literary quality to your writing.

Your other question is whether these agents are right or wrong. That's not really a useful question. There's no set objective criteria that you can meet that will guarantee your book be published --everything is a matter of someone's opinion. It's rare to get any usable feedback from an agent or a publisher, so if they have specific things they ask you for, it's wise to take it seriously. If you can fit their advice into your vision, do it. If not, don't.

  • Thanks, Chris. And to be transparent, it was only one person that said my work sounds like a screenplay. There is plenty of description in my book and introspection. I, like many modern authors, just don't too much description. To be fair, the agent that said this probably represents more literary fiction authors that rely upon purple prose than anything else.
    – user42900
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 22:31

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