Changing Mediums

I’ve written on similar topics in the past, about how learning to write for the stage and the screen can sharpen your novel writing skills (and vice versa). I really can’t stress enough how well-rounded it can make you, forcing you to acknowledge setting and action in a new way.

I know as a primarily novel writer, I tend to become complacent with my fictional elements. I think I know all there is to know to establish a scene, enhance the tension, insert more writer-y lingo here. But whenever I feel like my head is getting too big for my story (or if I get incredibly stuck on a particular scene and can’t figure out the best way to play it out), I realize it’s time for a medium change.

pexels-photo-27008And that change in medium is to write it like a movie.

There are some great sites out there that can teach you how to write a screenplay (Adobe Story is one of them). That’s not what this blog is for. This is really to explain the process your mind goes through as you transfer your readers from their imagination to yours.

When you write a screenplay, your action is direct. The actor needs to know exactly how you see them in this scene – crossing to the door, dropping a plate, laughing uncontrollably.

Sometimes as writers we can get lost in the literary clutter. We try too hard sometimes to make things sound fancy when they really just need to be clear. Stripping down your work to the bare bones gives you that chance to find the skeleton of your story. Once you’re there and you know what you want your audience to see then you can spice it up.

Now the dialogue. That’s the hard part in writing a script for me. There’s not really direction tagged with the dialogue in a script, so your writing needs to make it clear to your actor how the character is feeling. They should be able to pick up on the cues of how to act through what you’re having them do.

The same should be true when you write a novel.

Gasping, crying, laughing, shrieking, murmuring – they’re all wonderful words to describe your characters voices. But are you overusing them in place of expressing those same words through other actions? What if instead of crying out, your character clenched her fists in fear? What if instead of smiling, your character felt the warm bubble in his gut that made his words drip like honey?

This is a lesson I’m learning heavily now as I edit Part 1 of my MG novel and begin writing Part 2. My writing had become stale in the last few chapters. Rather than create a detailed work of art, I had created a sketch, a rendering, of what I wanted my audience to see.

That’s not good enough for me.

Practically, I’ve just transferred my work from a Word Doc into Scrivener by scene. As much as it pains me to do, I’m going to go back, scene by scene, and mentally write my story into a script. Break it down to build it back up.

It’s going to be a painful process, and honestly, I’m going to hate most of it – does anyone really love editing? – but if it produces a better story in the end, I believe it will be worth it.


Books to Read Before they Come Out on the Big Screen

One of my biggest pet peeves is going to see a movie when I know it’s based off a book I have yet to read. Whether the screenwriters are going for a word for word adaptation (not possible, by the way) or a loose interpretation, I can’t bear to watch it knowing there’s a book out there I should read first. It seems like book-to-movie adaptions are becoming more popular lately, so I wanted to see just how many there are in 2016, and I used wonderful Wikipedia to do it.

Below are a list of all the movies coming out in 2016 that are based off a book, as well as the author who wrote the book and the book title (if it’s different from the movie title). The website at the bottom of this post has the rest of the movies for 2016 and more information on the ones posted below if you care to take a gander.

  • 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi | 13 Hours by Mitchell Zuckoff
  • The 5th Wave | Rick Yancey (Just got this one at the bookstore and can’t wait to read it!)
  • The Finest Hours | The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman
  • The Choice | Nicholas Sparks
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies | Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
  • How to Be Single | Liz Tuccillo
  • Me Before You | Jojo Moyes
  • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot | The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker (Witty title and leading lady Tina Fey? Yes please!)
  • The Young Messiah | Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice
  • Allegiant | Veronica Roth (She’s in her 20s people, how cool!)
  • Miracles from Heaven | Christy Beam (If you’ve watched the trailer you’ve seen the movie and read the book.)
  • Ratchet and Clank | This one isn’t a book, but it’s based on a video game by Insomniac Games, and as a gamer I find this really cool. There are all types of writing jobs people. Maybe your calling is in the gaming industry!
  • Same Kind of Different as Me | Denver Moore, Ron Hall, and Lynn Vincent
  • Snowden | The Snowden Files by Lule Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena
  • Alice Through the Looking Glass | Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carrol
  • TMNT: Out of the Shadows | TMNT by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird
  • The BFG | Roald Dahl (Swoon! SO excited for this one!)
  • The Legend of Tarzan | Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Genius | Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg
  • Ben-Hur | Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace
  • Pete’s Dragon | S.S. Field and Seton I. Miller
  • The Infiltrator | Robert Mazur
  • Sully | Highest Duty by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger with Jeffrey Zaslow
  • The Girl on the Train | Paula Hawkins
  • Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life | James Patterson
  • The Bye Bye Man | The Bridge to Body Island by Robert Damon Schneck
  • Inferno | Dan Brown
  • A Monster Calls | Patrick Ness
  • Jack Reacher: Never Go Back | Never Go Back by Lee Child
  • Bill Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk | Ben Fountain
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them | J.K. Rowling
  • Let it Snow | Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
  • Assassin’s Creed | video game by Ubisoft
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children | Ransom Riggs

You can find the full list here:

Which of these books do you plan on reading before the movie comes out?

Shadowhunters: From Pages to the Big Screen Back to Pages Then to the Small Screen

It’s no secret that the Mortal Instruments big screen adaptation was a major fail. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even see it and I’m a huge fan of the books. The trailers didn’t make it seem right and the casting…well, the casting directors obviously never read the books. 

So naturally I was very interested when Freeform announced they would be creating a TV version called Shadowhunters. I was nervous, and still am, about this adaptation. Freeform (aka ABC Family) is basically the big brother of Disney Channel, which typically means exaggerated acting and somewhat cheesy graphics.

I eagerly tuned in last week and was pleasantly surprised. The characters aren’t quite the same, the plot is very mixed up but reasonable, and the acting wasn’t cringeworthy…yet. Flash forward to this week and I’ll be honest, the cheese factor increased a smidge and the acting was so-so. But as I’m not an actor, I won’t focus on that. What I’d like to do is give you an idea of what it takes to go from a book to a movie, or book to a TV show. 

I hate to break it to you, but it’s impossible to create on screen what you have in your head. Graphics just aren’t that good yet and writing word for word from the book is just crazy. Writers are constantly having the dialogue beaten out of them. Go back through the last book you read (the last three Harry Potter books don’t count) and see how much is dialogue and how much is narration. Emphasis in novel writing is placed on the latter, whereas with TV, it’s the former. So no matter what, the adaptation from one to the other will not be exact. 

Another non-issue I’ve had with the series is how out of order it is with the books, until I discovered season one alone is going to cover books 1-3, which I felt was a little ambitious, but if fear of cancellation is on their mind then I get their point. Be patient with the writers of TV shows and movies. Things like order often translate better one way in text and another on screen. Not to mention certain plot points have to hit at certain time stamps on screen. Let me put it to you this way, while books and movies and TV shows may all be entertainment, they are not written the same or produced the same.

I encourage you to test this out for yourself. Read at least the first three books of the Mortal Instruments series and then watch the TV show (I don’t recommend watching the movie). What differences do you see just in the first two episodes? Why do you think they made these changes going from one format to another?