THE CHALLENGE OF TURNING MY NOVEL INTO A SCREENPLAY
Whether you’re writing the outline of your next novel, or fleshing out the treatment for a new screenplay – respecting the difference in each art form is the only way to succeed. How do I know this? I don’t pretend to be an expert but I can say from experience how vastly different the process is for both of them.
Writing Last Train to Omaha was a cathartic experience for me, and getting to indulge into the heart and soul of my story and the array of unique characters gave me a chance to recover from my battle with breast cancer. Personally speaking, creating words on the pages was like a magic drug for me and it launched me into a working frenzy – honing the craft of scripting the story for imaginations ready and willing to take it on. Luckily, I had a great editor, and a supportive husband, who were instrumental in making this book the success that it is today.
When I first considered the idea of adapting Last Train to Omaha to the big screen, I had the concept running in my mind by means of several visuals and angles. I wanted to develop my characters and watch them move in sequence from screen shots to plot points and then ultimately to the end of the resolution. One hundred and twenty pages and voila! – a movie is born.
How naïve I was; to think that I could possibly achieve this without considering the facts. I only knew that I had a great story that needed to transform into a film. , one of the most consistent messages I’ve heard from my readers is “I’d love to see it as a movie.” I agree.
So where do I start?
While doing some research, I came up with the Top 5 things I need to know and do (or don’t do!) in order to effectively transform my novel into a screenplay. And, again, I humbly present this to you as a first time screenwriter.
- Read every Field book. Field is the ultimate guru of screenwriting and explicitly walks you through the process of right from character development, to the final end resolution. He calls it the “art of visual storytelling.” I’m on book three and preparing to head to New York City to attend one of his workshops.
- Don’t try to duplicate the storyline from book to film. Because the visual aspect is the primary driver for screenwriting, it’s not possible to take every single event or character to the screen. The main objective is to take your lead character, and main characters, and move them through the plotline. Every action in a shot is supposed to carry him or her through each plot point. We must be able to see the canvass unfolding - unlike a novel, where the storyline and multiple characters can be can be expressed and written for the reader to imagine and interpret.
- Consider your location. Since writing a screenplay is heavy on the visual component of the storyline – your characters’ surroundings and whereabouts are very important (location, location, location is everything!). I’ll be heading off to Chicago this summer to get my fill.
- Choose good dialogue. Having your characters say meaningful, clever and relevant things is crucial to the success of expressing your story on screen. It’s an important part of trying to inform the viewer who they are and where they are from. It also defines their motives and relationships with other characters throughout the storyline. Personally, I love films that are heavy on dialogue and character interactions (The Help or Glen Ross are two fine examples).
- Finally, don’t be afraid to write. This is one of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome. When I first sat down to write the screenplay I kept staring at a blank page and fumbling around. Things improved once I decided to simply “write” for the enjoyment and experience; not for the goal of having a draft screenplay laid out in front of me. Blake Snyder, author of Save the Cat says:
“You must try to find the fun in everything you write. Because having fun lets you know you’re on the right track.”
I’m taking his advice.
I’d love to hear from you; feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Ann Whitely-Gillen resides in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada with her husband and four children. She is currently working on the screenplay for Last Train to Omaha and the storyboard for her next novel entitled Egan's Will. www.anngillenbooks.com
A a horrific accident claims the life of his best friend at the age of eighteen, James Milligan vows to never let anyone get close to him again.
As a prominent Chicago architect nearly two decades later, James still lives as a shadow of his former self: shutting out those who love him most, navigating his life in a veil of solitude and drowning himself in anxiety and guilt.
As a volunteer at a palliative care hospital, James is most comfortable shepherding veterans through their final hours. However, when charismatic war veteran Martin Diggs and charming nurse Rebecca Doyle enter the picture, complacency and routine are threatened. Faced with another life-altering event, James is forced to choose between a life of pity and an existence he’d long considered impossible.
Last Train to Omaha is a heartwarming story of a broken man gaining the strength to let go of the past, pick up the pieces of his life and put them back together again.
Last Train to Omaha
Ann Whitely-Gillen, author
Softcover, 278 pages
Fiction & Literature
Availability: Kobo, , Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Alibris.
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