Pages 218 - 219
If you’re interested in how stories are constructed, this is a pretty good example!
We’ve just had George punch out Biff! The movie does some fancy footwork here to keep this momentum going: Marty glances at his photograph and sees his family hasn’t been restored, his smile fades, and he takes off running: SOMETHING’S WRONG. Then we cut to Doc checking his watch, looking up as the wind picks up, and whispering “The storm.”: SOMETHING IS COMING. Then we cut to Marty running up to the band and Marvin’s talking about his hand and how they can’t play, and Marvin says “The dance is over… unless you know somebody else that can play the guitar,” and BAM: final cut to Marty, looking a little confused and out of place, playing guitar at the dance. SOMETHING IS HAPPENING.
It’s quick, efficient, with clean problems to be solved and it keeps the suspense going.
In contrast, the book, while hitting similar moments, is all over the place. Marty running up to George and Lorraine (again, pushing himself into their moment for no reason) so he can shake George’s hand and be stupid – “Great work, Dad, I mean, George.” – which George totally ignores because he has to for the story to work, weeeeee.
Rather than the visual image of his family fading away, Marty just stands there and reminds himself of what he has to do with this little passage:
A disquieting thought rushed through Marty’s mind - his work wasn’t done yet. Not only had he to make his getaway; he still had to get his mother and father together, have them kiss romantically on the dance floor.
I put in bold the part where Gipe pretends he’s a narrating a story from history times: my gift to you.
Gipe mentions the sound of distant thunder here, so at least that’s in there somewhere, but then the problem of the band physically not being able to play gets transmuted into the stupider problem of the dance being over and the band not WILLING to play because it’s quittin’ time and everyone in this story is a jerk??
“It’s not too late,” Marty breathed. Then, in a louder voice, he said: “Hey, everybody! I think we should have one more dance just so this nice couple can celebrate!"
Everyone cheers (or in old man itis writing, there’s ”a shout of approbation“ (yes I looked it up, it means commendation, praise, or approval) (DID YOU KNOW: I believe you could get literally a thousand different people to write this scene and only Gipe would be the one to turn in a piece of paper describing teens cheering as ‘a shout of approbation’)).
Marty grabs George in one hand and Lorraine in the other and they all go running back into the dance while Marty shouts ”Come on, gang!“ (NOTE: this is not a joke, in this book this really just happened.) And the "all” there includes everyone who had just left the dance too, so Marty and George and Lorraine and the entire rest of the high school are running together. They jog past the musicians and Marty asks for one more dance and they’re all “Forget it. Dance is over,” so Marty busts out his wallet and gives them all his money.
Reginald is okay with taking the money (“It’s O.K. with me,” he says) but then reveals that Marvin has cut his hand. Marty does his “But you’ve gotta play” line, because “if there’s no music, they won’t kiss and fall in love! And if they don’t fall in love, I’m history!” only in the book he says “I’m a goner” because why use a thematically-appropriate word when you can… not do that?
And AGAIN Marty is saying this in front of the entire student population of the school, including George and Lorraine, and AGAIN everyone just ignores it. (Nobody in Hill Valley reacts when someone talks crazy, I guess? It’s a very chill town/valley). Then Reginald The Dick agrees to letting Marty play the guitar because “It might be worth it just for the laughs” (REGINALD: YOU ARE A DICK) and all the kids run into the school and Strickland is confused and he gets overrun by kids and hah hah I love scenes like this because screw your rules, authority figures!!
“What’s going on here?” Gerald Strickland shouted over and over. Grabbing arms, he tried to force the students out of the hall but his efforts were ineffectual.
Marty starts the dance with a little introduction: “One more dance. A special number for my parents.” and this “one more dance” thing ties back to his first line in this book, remember? Marty’s in class with his headphones on and he sings “Let’s have one more dance!” out loud in the first of a series of very credible scenes from this novelization! IT IS A CALLBACK, YES.
The band loves Marty because everyone loves Marty because this book sometimes reads like Marty McFly author insertion fan fiction:
At first following the band and then confidentially taking the lead, Marty looked around. The musicians were casting quick glances his way, glances that told him they admired the job he was doing. He could see his parents dancing just a few feet away, their heads together. Now it was just a matter of time… all was going well.“
And everything is going great! Nothing bad could happen to ruin this dance! Come back tomorrow and we’ll see that I was totally lying to you with that last sentence!!
(ps: I cheated with these images because they’re from the second movie and that’s a slightly older Marty watching the scene but it’s a great shot so I guess we’re all gonna just have to deal with it, huh??)