Adaptation Series: From Screenplay to Novel, Part Two: First Obstacles

Welcome to part two of my effort to adapt the screenplay “Guardians,” written by Raul Fernandez, into novel form.

Over the last couple of days, I gave the screenplay a first read through – making notes on nearly every page about questions I have regarding scenes, where chapters should end, and what I’ve discovered about the characters as I’m reading. During the read through, I determined my first three big obstacles:

First:

I had no idea who the protagonist was until the inciting incident occurred, which was the screenplay equivalent of almost three chapters in. Atrocious, right? Well, not really. Screenplays aren’t meant to be read. They’re meant to be watched. So, while the protagonist, Zachary, made his appearance in the first scene – a must as far as prose is concerned – his role of protagonist was unable to be determined just from reading dialogue. But, if this were to be watched on the screen, camera angles and usage would show the audience right away who the protagonist is.

Solution: An appropriate POV. I’ve decided on third person omniscient for this project for a few reasons; the first and most important being that the protagonist is not in every scene. So, first person was not an option. Zachary will, of course, be given the POV character role in the scenes where he appears.

Second:

Flashbacks. Perfectly acceptable, and highly effective in screenplays; not so much in a novel.

From The Writers’ Companion by Carlos J. Cortes and Renee Miller:

“We advise avoiding flashbacks whenever possible. Not only does a flashback hinder the pace, it stops the story action by taking the reader back in time where events are finished. Going back in time can never have the immediacy of the present in the story. In addition, there is nothing worse than wasting five minutes reading something that has absolutely no relevance to the active progression of the story.

Of course, there are times when flashbacks enhance the story and can’t be avoided. But if we do need to use them, we must try to the limit the flashbacks to one or two per novel.”

“Guardians” has an entire scene devoted to flashbacks of Zachary’s tasks as a Guardian. While the editor in me screams “get the axe!” the information contained in the flashbacks is important to the understanding and development of Zachary’s character. He commits a pretty big act of rebellion, and not for the first time, so the reader must be given a chance to understand his way of thinking – why he would act the way he does.

The solution to this one will take some thought. I can safely say that at least one flashback will remain, but I will have to determine which is the most necessary and how I can distribute the information contained in the others through different avenues.

Third:

These are not my characters. While I can make assumptions about who they are based on how they interact with each other and on their own, I cannot be certain that these assumptions are correct. Should I need to add events/interactions/conversations (which is more likely than not) I will need to know that the characters would indeed act that way.

Solution: An interview with the writer. Watch for my next post for the entire transcription of the interview.

So far, an eye opening process. I hope you’ll continue to follow me through my journey.

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One thought on “Adaptation Series: From Screenplay to Novel, Part Two: First Obstacles

  1. Nice. I'm wondering if it would be useful as a writer to do our own screenplays before turning it into a novel later. In that way, we become the director of our own plays.

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