Thursday, July 25, 2013

How A Screenplay Is Born...


This is a real-time picture of my kitchen. Yes, it's a mess, but it's a good mess. It's a mess that brings order to chaos - hopefully! If you've been following my whereabouts lately, I spent 10 days in Ireland back in April doing research for and trying to finalize my next novel, Truly and Finn, which at this point (thankfully) is safely in the hands of my agent and awaiting final scrutiny.

On to bigger (and scarier) projects - like tackling the daunting task of turning Letters From The Ledge into a screenplay. I've learned a lot so far in this process, and after three failed attempts at a straight adaptation (which would make this into a mini-series on par with Jane Austen if I wrote it straight out) I decided to take it apart so I could rebuild it!

See all those 3x5 cards? Each one represents an actual scene from the novel, laid out in chronological order according to the book. The yellow stickies represent main ideas, themes and plot points. Now how to somehow shuffle and combine the ideas on all those white cards, add in only the pertinent dialogue, and get it to represent all those yellow stickies without losing tension or emotion! I have the opening and closing scenes set - it's just a matter of filling in the middle. Ah yes...that dreaded white space!

It may seem a disjointed process to some, but the visuals really work for me. And knowing I can pick up individual cards and combine two of three of them into a "new" scene, or pull some out altogether if they don't move the plot along - this is a freeing process!

I know some writers don't want to dissect their babies, but I have read enough books and seen enough movies to understand that they can't always be portrayed the same. The trick, I guess, is to do such a good job of distilling the themes and emotions into the film, that people who've also read the book still feel like the movie did a good job of conveying the crux of the story, even if it ends up being slightly different than the novel.

It's a consuming process, to be sure, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you have to take a deep breath and just dive in. The water was cold for the first few minutes, but now it kinda feels refreshing! Hopefully this intense period of work will pay off and soon I'll have a feature length screenplay to show for it!