Translation of visual storytelling to novel writing

As part of my degree, I was required to take a screenwriting class which of course I approached with mixed feelings. To start with I prefer books to movies. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate a good show, but a movie made from a book usually has me running in the other direction. For example, I absolutely refuse to watch the Hunger Games because I am afraid of how they will screw it up.

Someone close recently reminded or I should say explained to me that it is not that they screw up the book but that is how the director interpreted the book.

My argument here is the movies tend to change the motivations of the characters and therefore the circumstances behind the actions. And in a book, it is those motivations that draw you to the character. It’s in that vein that if I know beforehand that I want to see the show I will wait to read the book afterwards. You’re not left feeling as if you have been ripped off.

Even though I was skeptical about a writer who is never (at least not until I get a director like Ron D. Moore) going to sell the rights for a movie taking a screenwriting class. But now I am glad I did. I am still certain about books to movies but there were several good points I was able to take away.

I tend to write very character heavy stories even when I try my hand at action. When writing for the screen it is visual storytelling or as the instructor said … the craft of using images to tell a compelling story. In other words, all the backstories should be summed up in two paragraphs that the actors can spit out sometime during the movie.

In some of the upcoming posts I would like to share a few of the things I think can be translated from screenwriting to novel writing.

Today I thought of starting with the ‘rule of three.’  On the global scale it is beginning, middle, end.  But it can be as subtle as characters, the hero, the side kick/interest, and the villain. The textbook called them the protagonist, the helper, and the antagonist. Truth is you are already familiar with it since it includes writing, editing, and rewriting.

These are good places to use them as one cycle and if you need to break it down even more opens to more detail.

  • the story– the status quo, the conflict, the resolution –

The story is full of the rules of three as there are many conflicts, resolutions, character arch, and obstacles and this place that planning coupled with the rule of three will flush out the piece.

  • a scene- setting the scene, the issue, and reaction to the scene
  • character arch – existing personality, catalyst, change

This is another one where each level is going to have its own cycle of three. Especially the catalyst… one thing never changes a person unless they were only two dimensional to start with.

  • Obstacles- finding the obstacle, trying to get around it, either conquering it or failing   which of course leads to another cycle of three.

On a side note, the early bird deadline for the short, short story from Writer’s Digest is the 15th of this month. I am working on the rewrite now. The story is called “Sailing to the Stars.” The original draft was 1535 words. I am hoping with the edits I can cut it back to the 1500-word limit.

Let me know what you think.

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