Screenplays vs. Novels

In between picking up my son from his extra-curricular activities and my domestic responsibilities at home, I caught the movie Silver Linings Playbook yesterday. I had read the book about a month back and I absolutely loved it; and so I was prepared to not like the movie because I knew it would be different.

To my surprise, I loved it. As much as the book. Though the movie did stray from the novel it was based on, it kept the spirit and in the end, it was more than satisfying. I will be adding it to my collection of films once it’s released on DVD.

Besides wanting to share that, I have to admit my previous thoughts on adaptation screenwriting are…adapting. I am a stickler for accuracy and integrity when it comes to telling a story for film, but in this case, the changes worked.

The same can be said of other films, like The Lord of the Rings movies. Granted, I only got through the first hundred pages (out of a thousand) of the books, but in it, Frodo had spent eleven years deciding if he was going to take the ring to the elves or not — hard to portray in film. Peter Jackson crunched the time to 11 months and it worked.

Sometimes though, it doesn’t.  I love Neil Gaiman’s work. My favorite novel of his is Stardust, about a boy who travels into a magical land to retrieve a fallen star. I was more than excited when the book was adapted into film — and more than disappointed with the ending, which stayed in the spirit of the movie, but was very, very weak. 

And don’t even get me started on The Last Airbender. I watched every episode of the Nickelodeon series, excited when it was announced M. Night Shamalayan would be directing the live action film. Oh, I so wanted to like that movie. I really did. I loved most of the actors who were cast and the story was already there. But it didn’t work. Too much telling, not enough showing.

So, what’s my point? Why am I sharing this?

Though I’ve written only books to this day, my dream is and has always been to write and produce movies. I love film – from the time my mom took me and my siblings to our first film in a theater (Lady and the Tramp) to yesterday, watching David O. Russell’s adaptation of Matthew Quick’s book, I love sitting in the theater (and yesterday was especially…special, because I was the only person in there), watching the stories played out on the screen, living the experience — that’s my dream. And I want to start with my book, Stepmothers Anonymous.

I have a basic outline and work on it when I’m not busy (ha!), but I know I will have some adapting to do. The average screenplay is 90-140 pages long and I’m at 230 pages. So yes, I’ve got some work to do — and now I know I can tweak and change it as necessary, to tell the best story I can — for book and film.

3 thoughts

  1. Best of luck with it! I’ve never tried to adapt a novel, but I here it is a much bigger chore than one might expect.

    Just a tip — the actual industry standard is between 90-120 pages. Try to aim for that mark.

    1. I can confidently tell you the process has been a lot harder than expected, but in the end, I know it will be worth it. Thanks for stopping by my blog and for your comments. I’ll keep the tip in mind as I continue writing.

  2. Since you love film, I hope your love and knowledge can carry you through any difficult spots you may encounter with adaptation process.

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