Week 12 18-24/04/2016 # Adaptation Anyone?

– 5 min –

Oh boy. What to do. Yes, the screenplay is still cooking, brewing, on the stove, in development. No, I’m not writing on it daily. But scenes are growing in my mind. Mostly ‘pure cinema’ ones, no surprise. I don’t mind how slow it goes. The best dishes are slow-cooked ones, in my opinion. This is not a simple story. It’s layered. Not a simple crime-thriller story. It has deeper, more dramatic layers. So, that takes time to develop, to grow. But somehow I feel a little stuck, not sure where it’s going exactly.

So, in need of some more inspiration, I visited the library, in particular the children’s department, in search of the books that I used to read when I was younger and inspired by, to figure out what it was that captured me. And then my eye caught a book that was displayed separately, together with some other titles. I didn’t know the book, but the title and colours on the cover drew me to it and I picked it up. Then I read the recommendation on the cover and was drawn to it even more. Even though the book is targeted on 10-year-olds and up and I see from the way it is written, it is very simple in the storytelling, I was hooked from what I read in the first pages. So, I took it home. On my way home already, I started thinking immediately of adaptation. I was thinking with my screenwriter’s brain. I thought what a friend said already a while ago ‘why not adapt a novel?’. I know little to none about how that works, but I know the difficulty of adapting a story, that you should basically use it as an inspiration and it’s nearly impossible to do it literally, you shouldn’t even try. In novels we are mostly in the character’s head and read what he thinks. In stage plays, we mostly hear dialogue. And on screen, we need to SEE what a character thinks and does. In some kind of action. So trying to go from being in the main character’s head to seeing everything on screen is a big challenge. But none of that was on my mind now. I was thinking of only one thing: I want to write a screenplay of this story. This story needs to be on the big screen. And I still had not read more than a few pages. Then I thought: surely someone has had that thought already. Surely the rights have been bought already and someone is already writing a screenplay for it.

At home, I googled the title. And of course, a big studio had picked it up, a few years ago already. And they are in conversation with a well known screenwriter to write the script. Of course. And although I am not very competitive, I was still thinking: I want to write this. As practice more than anything. I already had the opening sequence in my mind and it’s not the start of the novel (by now, I had read a few more pages of it). I was thinking: why not write this and then, when the movie comes out and their screenplay is available, I can compare what I have written and what they have made of it. I don’t think that’s a bad idea at all. I’m actually thinking this is a brilliant idea, since the other story is currently not moving really. Yes, it is sort of a deviation, distraction, but come on, anything to keep the writing going, right? No matter what it is. I was generating so much energy by now from excitement about this story, you could hook up me up to a toaster! Oh boy. What to do?

In search of some wisdom I posted a question on the screenwriting page on FB. Perhaps they had some advice on this. Because what if I do, what can I do with the screenplay at all? Can I add it to my portfolio? Can I register it even? Not to sell, but simply as a portfolio item. So an agent can read what I am able to write. Most comments and advices were against even writing it and advising to write your own story. Only established writers get to write adaptations. Of course you should never say those words to me, that something can’t be done, because immediately I then think ‘we’ll see about that’ and it makes me want to do it even more. But then one guy said something that ignited an aha moment again, connecting to what I wrote about a few weeks back: ‘figure out what draws you to that ‘great book’ and use that to fuel your own original project’. It was a great comment, because indeed what was it that drew me to the book, the story? And I knew immediately. It was the theme, what the main character goes through and the message. Because it is a book focused on a young audience, that is pretty clear very quickly. And it made me cry, because it’s a beautiful theme that I relate to a lot and I know many do. And then it hit me, I still had not established the theme yet for my screenplay and the theme of this story could very well be the main theme of my screenplay. Is that why I was drawn to it? Because it was lingering in my screenplay already, but I hadn’t decided on it fully yet, because my story is more complex than the novel and many other events were planned to be happening in my screenplay. Too many I think now. Which seems to cloud the core story.

Am I thrown back to the screenplay on the stove through this little detour? Was it simply because the screenplay was crying for a clear theme, a message and the theme of the novel is in fact the right theme of my screenplay? And that’s why I was drawn to it? I know it sounds very vague right now what it is, but in time I will reveal more and you’ll get it then. What I am astonished by is how close I seem to stay with the current themes of the blogs. And what I am learning. The screenplay I am working on and struggling with too, doesn’t seem to want to let go. It seems to be saying: ‘what is it about really, what is the core story, what do you want to say, what is the message, what is the theme? If you know that, it will fly, you won’t have any trouble anymore with writing it’. That’s what I’m thinking. If I take the theme of the novel and indeed make that the main theme of my screenplay, then that will be the focus and the story will revolve around that. And everything they do will lead towards that. It will be much easier to write then.

Perhaps finishing reading the novel will help me and will give me more answers. Also whether to leave my screenplay on the stove for now and dive into an adaptation of the novel anyways, just for practice. Anything to get some good writing going, right?

To be continued.

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