Adaptation Series: From Screenplay to Novel, Part Four: The Transformation Had Begun

Now that I have the nuts and bolts figured out (for the most part) I’ve begun the actual writing of the MS. The first draft of the first chapter is completed, encompassing the first two scenes of the screenplay. I had Raul take a look at a portion of it, and so far, it meets with his approval. With a grin on his face he said, “It’s really good. It’s weird, but good.”

So here, in screenplay and novel format, is a portion of the first scene so that you can see the comparison. I’m excited to hear your thoughts. Enjoy.

SCREENPLAY FORMAT

EXT. SUBURBAN STREET – DAY
Three men, ZACHARY, MICHAEL, and CHRISTIAN, casually walk along a sidewalk. Each have similar long hair, dark clothing and overcoats.

CHRISTIAN
Okay, take the chorus.
Christian sings without effort to the tune of “Ironic” by Alanis Morrisette.

CHRISTIAN (CONT’D)
‘It’s like ray-ee-ain on your wedding day.’ There isn’t a goddamned thing ironic about that.

ZACHARY
Why not? It could be ironic.

CHRISTIAN
Yes, it could be, but without more information it isn’t. If they purposely held the wedding in the fucking desert so that it wouldn’t rain, and it rains out there for the first time ever, then, yes, it’s ironic. Seattle in April? Not very ironic.

MICHAEL
You can’t write all that information in a song.

CHRISTIAN
No shit. So, don’t use the example. Next line, ‘It’s a free ride when you already paid’. What the fuck is that? If you pay somebody for a ride and it was supposed to be free, that’s called being ripped off not being ironic.

ZACHARY
What about the first line of the song? About the old guy winning the lottery and then dying. That’s definitely ironic.

CHRISTIAN
Yes, it is. I’ll give you that, but that line is a case of excess information. ‘An old man turns 98. Wins the lottery, dies the next day.’

MICHAEL
What’s wrong with that?

CHRISTIAN
There are three factors here where using only two would have been much more effective. One, the guy’s 98 years old. Two, he wins the lottery. Three, he dies the next day. First of all, 98 is really fucking old for a person. The average guy would have died 20 years ago.

ZACHARY
But it says he turned 98, which means he won the lottery on his birthday, then died the next day. That’s ironic no matter how old he was.

CHRISTIAN
Okay, but why make him 98? That’s all I’m saying. Wouldn’t it be so much more ironic if the guy just turned 21? In the prime of his life, just got married with a baby on the way, and boom! He wins the lottery on his 21st birthday. Suddenly he has a fucktillian dollars. Security for him and his family for the rest of his long life. No more worries. This guy is on top of the world. Then, fuckin’ biggetty-bam! He gets hit by a bus and dies. That, my friends, has ironic impact.

ZACHARY
Well, the fact remains. The guy was 98. Deal with it.
They continue walking, unnoticed by anyone else around them.

CHRISTIAN
Okay, the guy was 98. But why did he have to die the next day?

MICHAEL
That’s what makes it ironic. What have we been talking about for the last hour?

CHRISTIAN
That’s what makes it ironic for the 21 year old, but think about a 98 year old. He worked his fingers to the bone his whole life to support his family. They got by alright, but he always wanted more for them. Now he has out lived them all, watched his wife and children die, all his friends. He has no one. He lives in a nursing home and can no longer walk or take care of himself. He needs a machine to breathe. He wishes he would die, but he doesn’t. He plays the lottery every week as an unconscious habit and this particular week, he wins. He’s too old and broken for the money to bring him any joy and he has no one to leave it to. He still wishes he was dead, but he doesn’t die. Not for a few agonizing years.

ZACHARY
Shit, Chris.

CHRISTIAN
Well, I’m just saying.

As they continue walking, another man with long hair and dark overcoat, DANIEL, trots up and joins the walking trio.

DANIEL
How about the guy who gets on a plane for the first time and it crashes.

MICHAEL
Daniel to the rescue.

ZACHARY
Hey, Dan.

DANIEL
Sorry I’m late.

ZACHARY
You’re always late.

DANIEL
I know, but I’m always sorry.

CHRISTIAN
He’s right. The plane crash guy is the one ironic example in the song. I can’t argue with that one. One in the whole goddamned song.

NOVEL FORMAT

The thing about Minnesota autumn is if you blink, you’ll miss it. A few weeks of cool breezes and flame-licked trees – then the rain comes. Once the rain starts, winter is right around the corner. Minnesnowta.

On their way to a job, Zachary walked with, but slightly behind, Michael and Christian along a back alley sidewalk – empty except for the occasional enthusiastic speed walker. Zachary buttoned the front of his overcoat as a breeze snaked around his body. Bulbous clouds moved above them and darkened the sky. A damp, earthy scent filled Zachary’s nose.

Blink. Gone.

Great.

The others didn’t pay it any mind, but Zachary hated the rain.
Christian tilted his head back and sang in a perfect tenor, “It’s like ra-ee-aain on your wedding day…”

Michael chuckled. Zachary shook his head.

Like an expert dancer, Christian spun on his toes to face Zachary, continuing his walk, backwards. “You know, there isn’t a goddamned ironic thing in that song. I mean, ‘rain on your wedding day’?”

“It could be ironic.”

“Yes, it could be, but without more information it isn’t. If they purposely held the wedding in the fucking desert so that it wouldn’t rain, and it rains out there for the first time ever, then, yes, it’s ironic. Seattle in April? Not very ironic.”

Michael shoved Christian out of the way of an oncoming jogger. “You can’t write all that information in a song.”

“No shit. So, don’t use the example.”

Zachary stepped off the sidewalk. “Incoming.”

Michael moved out of the way, but Christian continued on – a child’s grin playing on his face. Michael moved to grab him, but didn’t reach him before a young woman with long black hair and a Pekinese in her arms passed through his body, as though passing through a thick patch of fog, unfazed.

Christian shuddered.

Michael rolled his eyes. “Chris…”

“What?”

Zachary positioned himself between them. Being the tallest of the three, his presence was usually enough to stifle an argument. “What about the first line of the song? About the old guy winning the lottery and then dying. That’s definitely ironic.”

“Yes, it is. I’ll give you that, but that line is a case of excess information. ‘An old man turns ninety-eight. Wins the lottery, dies the next day.’”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“There are three factors here where using only two would have been much more effective. One, the guy’s ninety-eight years old. Two, he wins the lottery. Three, he dies the next day. First of all, ninety-eight is really fucking old for a person. The average human would’ve died twenty years ago.”

“But it says he turned ninety-eight,” Michael interjected, “Which means he won the lottery on his birthday then died the next day. That’s ironic no matter how old he was.”

“Okay, but why make him ninety-eight? That’s all I’m saying. Wouldn’t it be so much more ironic if the guy just turned twenty-one? In the prime of his life, just got married with a baby on the way and boom!” Christian threw up his arms. “He wins the lottery on his twenty-first birthday. Suddenly, he has a fucktillian dollars. Security for him and his family for the rest of his long life. No more worries. This guy is on top of the world. Then, fuckin’ biggety-bam! He gets hit by a bus and dies. That, my friends, has ironic impact.”

A wave of heat wafted over Zachary, cutting through the pre-rain chill. A man with dark, wavy hair combed masterfully over his forehead fell into step behind them and smacked Zachary on the back.

“How about the guy who gets on the plane for the first time and it crashes?”
Michael glanced over his shoulder. “Daniel to the rescue.”

“Sorry I’m late.”

“You’re always late.”

“I know, but I’m always sorry.”

“He’s right. The plane crash guy is the one ironic example in the song.” Christian tilted his head to the left, stroking his chin. “I can’t argue with that one. One in the whole goddamned song.”

Notice that I didn’t keep the entire conversation. It was a little long and didn’t translate well into the action. There are things that can be shown in a screenplay (i.e. no one noticing the trio walking on the sidewalk) need to be demonstrated through action in a novel, so I added a bit as well. So far, this is turning out to be one of the most difficult, but most interesting projects I’ve ever taken on.

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