Adapting a Novel to the Big Screen

My dream is to write a novel that becomes a movie. I’ve written screenplays, but I am in love with novels. I love reading stories, and I love writing them. Writing a novel is a big undertaking, but I’m excited for the challenge. At the end of the process, you have something that is absolutely yours. That is a special feeling.

However, writing a novel that will, hopefully, one day become a movie, requires a degree of forethought. As stated in the video, there has to be enough “story” in the story to make it interesting for viewers. Novels usually have a lot of internal dialogue and description. In a movie, internal dialogue has to be conveyed through actual dialogue, body language, and/or facial expression.

Similarly, in a book, describing the setting is free. But, on a movie set, creating the setting requires enormous amounts of money and man hours. It’s good practice to keep these things in mind as you write (or rewrite).

I think the following questions are helpful when creating a story you hope will be adaptable to the big screen:

1) Is there enough that actually “happens” in the story? Characters should be performing actions and speaking dialogue that reflect what’s going on internally. If you were to see the story’s events in real life, would they still be interesting?

2) If you are a new writer, would the story be economical to produce? Period pieces and elaborate space explorations are fabulous, but expensive. You increase the odds that a small or mid-range producer would be interested in the work if the price tag isn’t too hefty.

3) Are you able to write screenplays? This seems obvious. But some novelists don’t appreciate how much different a screenplay is from a novel. In a screenplay, less is definitely more. Flowery, beautiful language that appeals to readers doesn’t work for producers and directors. Of course, the studio could hire someone to write the screenplay – and they might hire someone else to rewrite the screenplay anyway – but it’s helpful, and potentially more lucrative, if you can do it yourself.

4) Will you be able to handle it, emotionally, when your story gets changed in order to make the story screen-ready? Novelists usually work alone. Screenwriters work as part of a team. The large sums of money and time involved in making a movie mean that lots of people have different opinions. The story will change – sometimes completely – before it makes it to the screen. Is this story your “baby?” If so, you might not be able to tolerate the development process. Pick a story that isn’t too personal, or develop a thick skin if you decide you still want to adapt it.

Adapting a book into a movie is not completely within your control, but there are things you can do to make it more likely. If that’s your goal, spend some time planning your story. A visually appealing story with lots of action, great characters, and snappy dialogue stands a good change of engaging both readers and movie-goers.

Good luck!

And, maybe one day we’ll see your name (and mine!) under the “Based on a novel by…” credit!

Peace and love,

Raven

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Whatcha Reading?

As writers, we have to be just as concerned with our input as our output. Good writers are usually voracious readers. Not only is reading pleasurable, it exercises the mind in a more passive way than writing, while also providing subconscious material for future writing.

Mind you, I’m not talking about plagiarism. I’m saying that having lots and lots of stories in your head gives you more to pull from when you do your own writing. It’s good to read in your preferred genre. But it’s even more excellent to branch out and read in other genres. Push yourself. It might just liven up your writing!

Here’s what I’m reading now:

  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein. This is a sci-fi book about a penal colony on the Moon planning a revolution against their Earthly tyrants – all with the help of Mike, a sentient machine.
  • Daniel Deronda by George Eliot. This is a Victorian novel about a beautiful but spoiled and headstrong young woman who knows marriage is inevitable, but she really wants no parts of it. Isn’t it better to be fawned over and admired by many men?
  • Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King. I have no idea what this book is about but it’s hella long (699 pages)! I’m really looking forward to diving in!

What are you all reading? What are your favorite genres?

Have a beautiful weekend – and happy reading!

Peace and joy,

Raven

Charles Dickens – My Hero

I fell in love with reading before I had even learned how to do it. Like most babies, I enjoyed being read to. I even memorized my favorite stories to the point where people who didn’t know better thought I was reading – because I remembered exactly when to turn the pages! And my love for reading never faded with age.

Early in my childhood, my mom established the helpful habit of regular trips to the library. Because she also loves to read, she would venture off to the popular fiction section, and I would head over to the kids/young adult section. I loved mysteries at first. Eventually I moved on to the Judy-Blume-type books. I remember the book Go Ask Alice (by Anonymous) had a profound effect on me. People make fun of me when I say that because they view it as a cheesy “don’t do drugs” book. But it worked on me. I was never interested in drugs anyway. But the visuals from that story painted a nauseating enough picture to permanently discourage me from going down that road.

As I got older, I fell in love with classic literature. When I’d go to bookstores (remember those?) I’d always go straight to the Literature section. I didn’t know what I was looking for exactly. I just wanted to be told a great story, but I wanted to have to work for it a little bit. I wanted the language itself to speak to me. I wanted the humor to be sarcastic and subtle. I wanted any romance involved to be oblique, hinted about, not graphic and obvious. The first author I became attached to was Charles Dickens.

I don’t remember which of his novels I read first. But I remember Oliver Twist and Great Expectations being the most memorable ones for me. Dickens was a great entry-level literary fiction author for me because, though he is considered “literary” now, his novels were received as popular fiction in his day. I loved the humor in his novels, the way he makes fun of his characters in a loving way, and the cartoonishness of his villains. Beyond that, he’s able to inject social commentary without being self-righteous or preachy.

The social justice aspect of his novels combined with great writing and great story-telling make him my favorite author. I never knew much about him personally, so the above YouTube video was informative for me. I identify with him in many ways. I know what struggle is. I am always on the side of the underdog. I believe the arts should do something beyond entertain. They should inform the reader in some way, make him/her better off, inspired, open to changing societal ills. I’ve always loved the old morality plays for that reason. Yes, they are simplistic, but they are powerful in that they entertain as well as deliver a message.

So I hope to do the same with my writing! In fact, learning about Dickens has inspired me to scrap the story I was working on and start something that has a deeper meaning for me. Wish me luck!

Happy Reading and Writing,

Raven

Polyamory in Romance Novels

I was listening to Polyamory Weekly last week and the interviewee was Racheline Maltese, co-author of The Art of Three, a new romance novel. The story sounds intriguing, but more intriguing is that the authors themselves are polyamorous.

Polyamory is the practice of having multiple long-term loving relationships with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved. Having dated polyamorously a couple of times, and having studied it seriously for the better part of a year, I can say that it is not as scandalous or exciting as it sounds. It attracts all kinds of different people, some of whom are highly evolved and have the utmost of beautiful intentions, some of whom are confused or predatory, and some of whom have no business even trying it. But that’s a subject another blog.

In terms of writing a romance novel, what I love about this story (I haven’t read it yet) is that it dispenses with the tired cliché of whom will she pick – the hot young stud who offers her passion and excitement, or the other hot stud who offers her depth and commitment? Or some other such sad and soggy cliché. Instead, the heroine pursues a relationship with both parties and deals with whatever joy and drama ensues from such a choice. What a new and seductive idea!

Writing – and all art – is a tight balance between being innovative and real, but conforming to the conventions readers expect. It is a hard balance to get right. If it’s too cutting edge, readers may be offended and dismiss it out of hand. If it’s too conventional, readers will be bored and pass it over. What I like about Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese, the co-authors of The Art of Three, is that they decided to just write what they wanted to write. The best art, in my opinion, comes from the depths of the artist; it does not come from studying the market. It’s a risk. But it seems to have paid off for these authors. The book has received positive reviews.

So, for all of you who love, compose, or consume art, may you open the boundaries of your spirit and stretch yourselves to consider new and trailblazing ideas.

Have a blessed and beautiful week,

Raven

Novel or Screenplay?

This past Saturday I attended a wonderful writer’s workshop put on by the Scriptwriter’s Network. The topic was self-publishing. And, though I received some very helpful information about self-publishing, the biggest revelation I received had almost nothing to do with the workshop.

In the beginning of the workshop, the speaker asked how many of us were working on novels, and how many were working on screenplays. Someone in the group said they were trying to decide which one their story should be. In an instant, although I have been working on a screenplay, I realized that my story needs to be a novel.

There is no cut and dried way to know which format one should use. But I realized that my story needs to be a novel because:

  • It is about a woman’s inner transformation through her relationships
  • There is not a lot of action in the story
  • I want my main character to narrate the story

None of these items, in my opinion, makes for a great screenplay, so novel it is. I also realized that the reason I had shied away from writing a novel is that I feared it wouldn’t be long enough. Publishers tend to seek specific word count ranges, and I have no clue yet how long my story will be. With screenplays, it’s 80-120 pages. I feared that I might start writing a novel and then only have 80-120 pages. Who would want it?

However, having the option of self-publishing solves this problem. If I choose to self-publish, the word count is up to me. I haven’t decided yet if I want to self-publish or not.  But, somehow, having this option freed me from fear. I feel energized to abandon the screenplay and start my novel. I’m excited.

Speaking of excitement, one of my Facebook friends posted a video of a woman who raged against the notion of “inspiration.” When it comes to achievement, inspiration is overrated, she said. Most of the time we won’t feel like creating or doing what we need to do. Do it anyway.

So, although I am excited, I accept that excitement might be the exception rather than the rule. To accomplish my goal I will need to just work towards it, little by little, inspired or not, until it’s finished. That, actually, is also liberating.

Happy Reading,

Raven