I can't count how many times readers have told me they'd love to see my books as movies. I would too! Show me a writer who wouldn't - except maybe P.L Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, recently portrayed in the wonderful Disney movie, Saving Mr. Banks.
In that spirit I've been adapting THE FOREVER ONES into a feature length screenplay and the experience has been an interesting one to say the least.
Novels and screenplays share some characteristics in common, but are actually very different forms. In the screenplay everything is shown visually and there's little room for capturing the character's inner thoughts, except for the occasional voiceover, but you can't overdo that. Instead you have to rely on making your characters move, live, act and react to other characters and circumstances. That means cutting a lot of "interior" stuff and trying to show it through action and dialogue.
In a book you can fill the reader in with background and "back story", whereas in a movie you have to show background as something the character interacts with, and "back story" can't just be dumped on the viewer, it has to be integrated into scenes, with maybe a flashback, but again, you can't rely too much on those. Sometimes you have to start your movie at a different place than your novel to take care of back story.
In a book, you're concentrating on language and imagery. In a movie you have to capture vivid scenes full of arresting and thrilling images, dialogue and action. Also dialogue in a movie tends to be more brief and there are many more scenes with action rather than talking and long discussions.
That being said, experience writing screenplays really helps a novelist structure stories. I know that worked for me.
The screenplay forces you to adhere to a solid story structure and prevents you from wandering off on a tangent. It also forces you to write more visually, having that little TV monitor in your imagination, its screen filled with the ongoing action of your story.
When I think of all my stories I can see them all. The characters, the setting, every intricate detail. And they stay in my head permanently, so that I can retrieve them at any time.
I'll be taking my scripts down to Los Angeles in September for Story Expo, where you get to attend great class sessions on all aspects of story, and also get time to pitch your ideas to major studios. Your pitch has to be honed down into something so brief and catchy, you could present it in an elevator ride. So, fingers crossed, there may be some interest in a new YA science fiction series!
All of this got me to thinking about books that have been successfully adapted into movies. Here's my TOP 6 list:
- The English Patient (Anthony Minghella), from Michael Ondaatje's Booker prizewinning masterpiece of the same name. Intelligent but steamy romance in the desert with the gorgeous Ralph Fiennes and the beautiful Kristin Scott-Thomas!
- The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont), from Stephen King's novella, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in masterful performances.
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Milos Forman), from Ken Kesey's iconic novel. A wickedly mischievous Jack Nicholson.
- Empire of the Sun (Stephen Spielberg), from J.G Ballard's semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. Heart-rending, incredible performance from the young, Christian Bale and a terrific John Malkovich.
- Blade Runner (Ridley Scott), from Philip K. Dick's novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Atmospheric futuristic setting. Classic Harrison Ford and breathtakingly luminous performance from Sean Young. Also the great Rutger Hauer and Darryl Hannah as scary but handsome Androids.
- Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock), from Daphne du Maurier's novel of the same name. Elegant but chilling black and white movie starring the suave young Laurence Olivier as the handsome Max de Winter and Joan Fontaine as his vulnerable second wife. A stern and scary Judith Anderson as "housekeeper noire", Mrs Danvers.
And a few more honourable mentions:
Silence of the Lambs, Carrie, Schindler's List, We Need to talk About Kevin, Atonement, Rebecca, The Godfather.
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