Friday, September 13, 2013

How to Adapt Your Novel Into a Screenplay Pt. 2: Planning and Pre-Writing

Welcome back to “Hating Yourself and Everything You’ve Ever Created.” Or, if you’re just joining us, “How to Adapt Your Novel Into a Screenplay.” Yeah, those two statements are synonymous.

If you haven’t read my first post about the challenges of adapting your own work into a screenplay, you probably ought to. If for no other reason, it’ll buy my some time to finish writing this article. So go check it out!

Ok, you’re back and I’m done typing. Now, let’s prepare to do the preliminary, pre-writing work that’s necessary in adapting your own work. (Or anyone else’s work, really, but yours especially)
  1. Determine what your book is about and state it in one sentence. And your sentence ought to be able to fit this little MadLib: Set in (SETTING), (TITLE) is about a (CHARACTER DESCRIPTION) who must overcome/defeat/solve (MAJOR OBSTACLE) in order to accomplish (CHARACTER’S OVERALL GOAL). Yeah, this is pretty hard to do, but you wrote it, right? Nobody should be able to do this better than you. So do it!
  2. Read your book and mark every scene that does not meet every single facet of your sentence synopsis. So the only scenes that should be unmarked are scenes involving your protagonist fighting the obstacle to accomplish the goal. Do you need to rework your sentence a little to include a few more scenes in the beginning? That’s fine as long as you’re purposeful about it and don’t make the obstacle too vague. (Remember, the obstacle will usually be the main antagonist, so every scene should involve the protagonist struggling against the antagonist, even if the protagonist doesn’t know they’re fighting the antagonist yet.
  3. Take the remaining unmarked scenes and mark duplicate scenes. In other words, if two scenes involve similar action, or similar struggles, but they have different character development or different subplots, mark those up. You only need one of those scenes, if you need it at all.
  4. Label the remaining unmarked scenes and organize them into an outline. Now, read through your outline and see if any important steps of the story have been left out. (Check out the five plot point model and ask yourself if all five points are represented adequately in this outline) If any points are missing, or if any points are bloated, mark those points for your immediate attention.
  5. For missing plot points, return to your marked scenes and find the absolute best scene that accomplishes the goal of the missing plot point. Add that to your outline.
  6. For bloated plot points, look at the scenes in your outline that correspond to that point and pick out only the scene that best accomplishes the goal of that plot point. Eliminate the others.
  7. Finally, read through your outline and ask yourself if you have a cohesive visual story. Are there any points where the action, goals, or anything else are confusing because of missing information? The information might be missing because of one of your deleted scenes, or it might be missing because it wasn’t represented visually in your book. Make a note of these issues. You’ll have to write new scenes or new elements to scenes in order to bring clarity to your story.

All right, that’s some pretty good pre-planning  and you have a functional outline to follow as you now write these scenes into a screenplay. We’ll talk about how to do that in the next post. Link will be right here.


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