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  • William B. Taylor

A Novel Or A Screenplay...Which Is More Difficult To Write?


For the past few months I have been wondering how my novels would translate to the big or small screen. What would the characters that I created look like, and how would the story be received as a movie? With the release of my first audiobook earlier this month, the idea began to grow like Jack's beanstalk.

I've always enjoyed books as they allow my imagination to bring the characters and settings alive, painting a picture in my mind, seen only by me. When a book I have enjoyed has been made into a movie, I have often been disappointed as the interpretation of the story differed too much from my own interpretation of the book.

There are exceptions, of course, such as the Harry Potter series of movies. I think the screenwriters, directors, producers and cast all did an excellent job of bringing the series alive. I am certain that J.K. Rowling must have had a significant role in how the movies were made as the stories were "true" to the books.

There have been other books that I have read that were made into movies that I did not like. Had I not read the book first, I may have enjoyed the movie, but I didn't. The reasons I didn't care for the movies vary from not liking the interpretation of the story to the actor's portrayal of a favorite character or feeling too much of the original story was missing or changed. Whatever the reason, I, like many others, often have mixed feelings about a beloved book becoming a movie.

To get back to my original point though, I began thinking more and more about what my books would look like if they were made into movies. It didn't help that at least once a week I have a reader contact me asking when a movie would be made; they would love to see Alex, Maggie and, of course, crazy Brenda and Connie come to life in a movie. Many of the fans of my Bloodlines Series also want to see Cove Point Manor, the Gilded Age mansion that holds so many secrets.

I started looking for crowd-sourcing services that could be used to find a screenwriter who may be interested in tackling one of my novels and turning it into a screenplay. I thought that there may be a service, similar to Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) which I used to find both of my talented narrators for "Cove Point Manor" and "Of Noble Blood", which I used to make my first audiobook and my upcoming audiobook. I found nothing.

I then began searching blogs and message boards to see how an author could be matched up with a screenwriter. Still nothing. I then started to research exactly what a screenplay was to try and remove some of the mystery from the screenwriting process. It was an eye-opener!

When writing a novel, an author paints the scenes, characters and actions with words over the course of several hundred pages. An author has the luxury of providing background information, jumping from one scene or time period to another, fairly seamlessly. An author can also let the reader know what a character is thinking.

A screenwriter needs to do the same thing in a fraction of the space while maintaining a flow which will not confuse a viewer when the story becomes a movie. The thoughts of a character are often no longer expressed through silent conversation; their thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams need to be expressed in actions.

While a novel may be 300 or more pages in length, a screenplay is usually under 200 pages. In those condensed number of pages, settings, background actions, lighting, noises and a myriad of other things must be described. The characters not only have dialogue in a screenplay, but their physical appearance, actions, etc. all need to be described. Both screenplay writer and an author have to be creative, but often in very different ways. Visualization is key to both vocations, but possibly more important with the screenwriter as their script is the guideline for the actors, directors and others that will bring the story to life on the big, or small, screen.

The more I read about screenwriting, the more discouraged I became. The screenwriting process seemed counterintuitive to my author side. As an author, I try and paint a picture, provide background information and create a character or characters that the reader will react to. A screenwriter does this in a very different way, and must consider all the others involved in the production of a movie.

I've never been one to back down from a challenge, at least one that isn't going to put me at (too much) physical risk, or make me go crazy, but this screenwriting thing seemed quite difficult. I tossed the idea around in my head from time to time but decided that screenwriting wasn't for me.

Then, as I sometimes do, I changed my mind and began researching more about the whole screenwriting process. Much like advice that is given to budding authors, a common theme with screenwriting was to read screenplays. It made sense; one needs to know what is expected if one is to succeed. I found several websites that contained well known screenplays that could be downloaded for free. I started to read the screenplays, and as I did, they suddenly seemed less intimidating than they once had been.

A screenplay differs in many ways from a full-length novel, but the premise is the same: you want to be able to make the characters, scenery and actions come to life. Neither is an easy task, but if one has talent, creativity and vision, it can be done. Screenplays also have a very strict formula which a screenwriter needs to follow, and there are screenwriting software programs available to assist with the formatting.

Where does this leave me? I'm still not 100% convinced I should write a screenplay - if I did, what would I do with it once it was done? But I'm no longer intimidated by tackling a screenplay. Since I already have the stories written in novel form, and I'm familiar with the characters, settings, action and all other aspects of the story, I think I may be ahead of the game.

I may give this screenwriting thing a try, and see how Cove Point Manor shakes out. If nothing else, it will broaden my knowledge and expand my writing skills. Who knows, maybe one day I can say I published e-books, novels, audiobooks and wrote a screenplay? If I am really lucky, maybe I will even get the chance to see my characters come to life on the small, or big screen.


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