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Adapting Your Novel for Film
by Pauline Baird Jones

Category: General Nonfiction
Description: Think your novel would make a great movie? Want to try your hand at writing the screenplay? Award-winning author Pauline Baird Jones now shares her years of expertise in a series of writer's handbooks, including Adapting Your Novel for Film, a helpful guide for turning your book into a film. A book and a movie are two entirely different mediums. Successful adaptation requires trimming down a story--it's not always easy! Strict formatting guidelines also must be followed or your script won't even be considered. Pauline tells you about the "secret handshake" and gives many examples from her own books' adaptations. She also includes valuable information on protecting your work, and pitching your ideas to Hollywood. Dozens of helpful website links will help both new and experienced writers. Let Pauline save you time--add this handbook to your library today.
eBook Publisher: L&L Dreamspell/L&L Dreamspell, 2008 2008
eBookwise Release Date: August 2008


2 Reader Ratings:
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Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [96 KB]
Words: 19715
Reading time: 56-78 min.

If you've seen any movies at all, then you know that adaptations are a film industry mainstay. Everything from the latest New York Times best seller to old classics is fair game for the savvy screenwriter. Disney has even adapted two of its amusement park rides into film scripts--with one, Pirates of the Caribbean, an actual rousing success. In recent years we've seen various Harry Potter books and the mega-classic Lord of the Rings appear on the big screen and new film and TV adaptations of Jane Austen's enduring classics.

* * * *

It used to be only NYT best sellers that made it to the big screen, but with the success of a slew of small, independent films, opportunities have opened up for mid-list and small press authors, who are getting noticed by production companies. Although some producers do option books, many prefer to deal with a script that has already been adapted or will ask the author to do the adaptation.

* * * *

Whether you consider the current crop of movie adaptations successful or not, there's no question that the movies resulted in sales surges for the books these movies were adapted from. If you've read any of the books-to-films, then you already know that some adaptations are faithful representations, while others only have the title in common.

* * * *

I used to get really annoyed at what Hollywood did to a novel's story line, but after learning more about the process, now I'm surprised when a movie is at all faithful to the source material.

* * * *

If you are planning to adapt your own material, you need to understand how it all works and why some adaptations go so awry. First, adapting your novel to film is actually a new way to tell your story. In a way, it's like changing an apple into an orange. If you try to cling too tightly to the written word, you'll quickly get bogged down or write a script that is fifty pages too long--and not suitable for either the big screen or television.

* * * *

A book and a movie are different mediums. This all seems very obvious, but you'd be surprised how many new screenwriters write all sorts of non-visual actions into a script. For instance, you can show someone thinking, but you can't show what they are thinking. Yes, there is such a thing as the voice-over, but you do not want to go there unless you have no other choice. Take it from someone who has tried....

* * * *

Another thing to understand is that books are long. Scripts are not. If you actually want to sell your script when you're done, it absolutely, positively can't be more than one hundred and twenty pages--and less than that is even better. That sounds like plenty until you try to shoehorn a four hundred page novel into one hundred and twenty pages.

* * * *

You have to condense better than Reader's Digest, which can mean losing dear-to-your-heart subplots, scenes, characters and themes. It means finding in your novel the visual, dramatic story. Script guru Linda Seger likens the process to finding "the delphiniums in a garden that includes one hundred different flowers." For me, it's like finding the skeleton, the bones of the story, within all the meatiness of a novel.

* * * *

Another thing to consider is the commercial potential of your story. Even if you plan to deal with an independent producer, they like to make money too, so they can make more movies. Just because a producer is used to losing money, doesn't mean s/he doesn't live in hope of actually making some. And you'd like to make some, too, wouldn't you?

* * * *

Think about the movies that make money at the box office. These stories usually have broad appeal to some segment of the general public. You should know who your audience is before you start. If you want to sell in the U.S. and your audience is in France, well, Houston, you have a problem.

* * * *

To sell in the US, it's important for a reasonably commercial film to have a solid, well-constructed visual story. Simplicity and clarity are unbelievably important because you'll be dealing with people who don't like to read. That's right. Movie people, for the most part, don't like to read. They pay other people to read for them. This is also a good reason to have a solid, yet simple premise for your film when you begin pitching, because the pitch is the first thing you must sell.

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