Saturday, December 31, 2011

From Novel to Script & Back Again - Changing Writing Styles

Many writers understand how different writing a novel can be from a short story. Intellectually, they know that scriptwriting is also different. The danger comes when they think it's easy. Easy isn't the correct word, because just like when you write a short story, you have to shift gears and think in different terms (like "cross" and "off screen"). I am in the process of doing just that.

I have written before about my science fiction project, The Apex. It is a seven part epic that hopefully will have at least parts 1-4 completely written in 2012. That's the goal anyway. In order to reach this goal, I'm working with the director (for lack of a better word) of the project on novelizing the scripts but I'm also co-writing with him on the scripts.

One of the things I have to concentrate on is getting away from descriptions. If you've read my blog regularly, my book THE BROTHERS or are one of the blessed few who has gotten a whiff of its sequel LOVERS AND RIVALS, you know how I feel about description. For a novel, there is nothing more important than elegant phrasing and sublime sentence structure. In order to transport the reader into the writer's world, the author MUST use adverbs and adjectives. There must be active verbs and words that activate the senses. These are required. But for a script, description is largely out the window. The importance in a script is in lively dialogue that honors the characters and moves the plot along. Scripts are concise, so every word and action by the characters must be chosen carefully in order to communicate something to the viewer while driving the story. Different goals require different writing skill sets.

Honestly, once I see someone do something like this, I have the blessed ability to imitate it. If I see something done once, usually I can reproduce the required tasks (I've learned how to beat several puzzle games this way). This is also how my writing has gotten progressively better from one manuscript to the next (thank the LORD!). That said, my first foray into scriptwriting will definitely reflect my learning curve. Luckily for me, I have someone writing with me who has experience making it a bit easier.

As many of you know, The Apex project is not the end of my screenwriting. My goal is to write scripts adapted from my other books as well (especially the Khloe Alwell series). It will be interesting to see how the process works differently in that situation. Instead of novelizing a script, I'll be moving a different direction, as well as using my own story. I like the idea of adapting my own story into a script, but I know also that I will miss out on some of the cross-pollination that happens when another creative force is present. No matter how any of this turns out, screenwriting is an exciting frontier in my creative process. I fully plan to conquer it, flag and all.

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