Writers already know all the vital elements of storytelling: antagonists, protagonists, the inciting incident, plot points, character development, and all that juicy conflict that makes for a compelling page-turner. Book authors explore these elements in great depth over dozens, even hundreds, of pages of prose. What stymies many accomplished authors is how to adapt these often lengthy tomes to the much more concise screenplay format.
There’s no question — a movie must tell in roughly 120 script pages what an author usually tells in several times as many pages of single-spaced paragraphs. Paring down that kind of volume can seem like an insurmountable task, but if you organize your book a different way, you’ll be off and running before you know it.
Many writers find it useful to begin the screenwriting process on notecards. This is essentially another way to outline your script, but notecards allow you to rearrange, add, and remove elements easily. Start by writing the title and brief summary of each scene in your book on a notecard. (A scene is a short, self-contained segment of a story that takes place in a specific time and/or place.) If you’re a beginner, consider writing down even those scenes you don’t expect to include in your final script. These may prove useful to you as you determine what other scenes to drop, add, or combine.
Next, decide whether you want to tell your story in chronological order or some other fashion and arrange your cards in that order. Once this is done, you can begin paring down.
Paring down your scenes for film format may be the most difficult part of the process. Writers fall in love with their own words. Cutting them or telling the story without them (using visuals instead) can make a writer feel as though the heart and soul of their work is lost. But the Big Screen is a different animal.
Flip through your notecards and pull out all scenes that don’t a.) advance the plot or b.) develop your main characters – all of them. Be merciless. If that charming café scene does little more than look pretty and show verbal prowess, it has to go. Your visual story will be all the better for it.
|ABOUT ELISE L. CONNORS:
Elise works as the Manager of Author Support of Outskirts Press. She also contributes to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com.
Elise and a group of talented book marketing experts assist self-publishing authors and professionals who are interested in getting the best possible exposure for their book.