Adaptation Series: From Screenplay to Novel, Part One: The Bones

There are two writers in my immediate family: myself, and my stepfather, Raul. The difference between us (well, the biggest besides DNA) is that he’s a screenwriter and I’m a short story writer. Anyone familiar with either of these animals knows that they are different breeds, entirely.


A screenwriter concerns himself with dialogue and the bare bones of a situation. I.e.:

CHRISTIAN enters. He’s angry.

CHRISTIAN

What the fuck, Miriam?

A short story writer, or novelist for that matter, concerns himself with everything else: setting, mood, internal dialogue…

Arms clenched at his sides, Christian kicked in the door of the piece of shit apartment he shared with Miriam.

Not for much longer, good for nothing bitch.

When she didn’t come running to see what the bang was, Christian went looking for her. It wouldn’t be hard. She wasted her life away in front of the television in the bedroom.

The glow of the television flickered on her face, but she didn’t acknowledge his presence.

“What the fuck, Miriam?”

See the difference? 179 words difference, to be exact. The scene is, at its bare bones, the same. But the screenplay version leaves room for interpretation by the producers and director who will work on the movie. The prose version shows you what you would’ve seen in the movie. I read a blog by an author who writes screenplays BEFORE his novels… he called screenplays “the bare bones” of a novel. In essence, a form of an outline. This, to me, was an interesting idea.

Why this blog series? I’m taking on a project. I will be adapting a screenplay written by my stepfather into novel form. Mostly, I just want to see if I can do it. But also, the story for this particular screenplay is my favorite of all that I’ve read of his work. The characters are solid, the plot has no holes, and the story is believable.

This series will be my account of all the problems I come up against (I’m a realist. There WILL be problems), the successes I have, the questions I come across, and the overall process of adapting a screenplay to a novel. Let the games begin!