New1 Did you know Die Hard , one of the most successful franchises in movie history, was made from a novel? It’s a relat...
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They rounded a wide wooden staircase with a rusted water heater underneath. They appeared to be in some sort of unfinished garage with metal...
Monday, August 12, 2013
He was in maneuvers over the desert, every gauge on the instrument panel screaming at him for attention. He couldn't eject - the G's were pulling him down too hard, his mind struggled for consciousness. He tried the eject handle, desperately, but he couldn't pull it. The ground was racing up to meet him at a thousand feet per second. In ten seconds, the plane would hit the Earth. He closed his eyes, held his breath and braced for impact...
When he opened his eyes again, after what seemed an eternity, he found himself walking along the desert. He was strolling along, casually, not a care in the world. He happened to glance down, he was still in his green flight suit. His helmet was gone and he had no recollection of what in the world had happened to it.
He came up, finally, to a car propped up on a jack alongside an empty highway. It was a 1937 Studebaker, brown and speckled with dirt. Other than the flat tire, it appeared in good shape. There was a little girl peering over the seat in the back. Bright blue eyes, bouncy brown curls, freckled cheeks. Her face was young and innocent, yet somehow strangely familiar. The older gentleman was working on the car, a white dress shirt, light gray slacks; a smudge of grease on his nose. He was a handsome man, slightly grayed about the temples. He reminded Gordon of those "Dad" ads of the fifties, the ones you'd see on the back of the old magazines. Black-and-white advertisements for cigarettes, or cars, or insurance.
"Hello," said Gordon and the two began to talk. Soon, he was helping the gentleman with his tire. The man introduced himself but the name meant nothing. When he learned the little girl's name, Emily, it sparked a vague recollection. "That was my mother's name," Gordon said.
The older man drove Gordon into town. They stopped at a diner. My God, thought Gordon. It's the the 1950's. Something was definitely wrong. Was he dead? Is this little girl sitting in the booth across from him his mother? The older gentleman his grandfather? Suddenly he remembered something. "I was flying my jet," Gordon explained, "the controls went dead, I couldn't eject." His hands gripped the chrome trim of the table. He looked at the little girl. "But this can't be Heaven." His heart began to pound.
The older man sat calmly and spoke in a matter-of-fact tone. "I remember back in June of '45, my Corsair got shot up pretty bad over the Pacific. I was losing pieces every few feet, oil flopping out of the engine. I was a goner, or so I thought..."
Gordon looked at him. He felt the man was trying to tell him something, impart something important. "What did you do?" he asked, still gripping the table hard.
"I let go." The man shrugged. "I stopped fightin' I guess. I figured, whatever was gonna happen was gonna happen, no use frettin' about it." He used the corner of the paper menu as a toothpick. "You find yourself in those moments, sometimes. It goes against every instinct in your body, but sometimes, you just gotta let go."
Gordon looked down at his grip on the table. He wanted to release it, but couldn't. The place around them began to shake, vibrate violently. Gordon's heart lurched in his throat, it was an earthquake. But the older man just stared at Gordon with a queer expression, as if nothing in the world were wrong. He saw the little girl's hand reaching out toward him. She placed her hand on his. "Just let go," she said, looking up at him with her big blue eyes smiling at him. "You gotta let go..."
When Gordon forced open his eyes again, he was surrounded by a brown/blue landscape spiraling up at him. He shook the fog from his head forcing his vision to clear. A cloud lifted from his consciousness. He realized he was back in the cockpit of his jet, careening helplessly toward Earth. He sucked in a breath, closed his eyes.
He let go of the controls, let go of the eject handle, let go of everything.
In the next instant, he heard an urgent buzzing noise above him in the cockpit and then it happened - the automated firing mechanism blew the bolts off the cockpit canopy and it was whisked away into thin air. Then, without warning, the ejection seat fired.
He found himself being shot out of the plane like a rocket hurtling toward space. When his senses returned, he felt himself tumbling head over heels into nothingness, and then he was vaguely aware of the chute catching open, filling with air, and he was jerked violently upward. Again, his stomach was in his throat, but things calmed and he found himself floating gently over the horizon, floating over the desert as landmarks on the ground slowly came into focus. He lifted his gaze and saw a plume of dark smoke billowing like some ancient pyre far in the distance - marking the location of his wrecked plane.
As he floated safely and gently down to Earth, he closed his eyes, thought of Emily's bright caring eyes, and smiled. He made a mental note to remind the engineers about the locked ejection handle. It was supposed to operate on its own, but froze when forces were gripping on it, like he had done when disaster struck. All he had to do was let go to get it to work, but he had forgotten that in his panic. Thankfully, he had been reminded - not just of the handle but of something much, much more important.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Did you know Die Hard, one of the most successful franchises in movie history, was made from a novel? It’s a relatively thin book entitled Nothing Lasts Forever and the author, Roderick Thorpe, wrote it back in 1979. You should look it up on Amazon, see if you can pick up a copy and give it a read. I’ve always found it fascinating to read the original source material of a favorite movie. Just the other day I learned that one of my all time favorites, Flight of the Phoenix, was based on a novel. I picked up a used copy and read it. This can be a very helpful learning tool for anyone considering the task of adopting his or her original screenplay into a novel.
And you probably know that Rambo, First Blood was based on the book by David Morrell. You should definitely read that if you get a chance! But be prepared for a few surprises! Morrell’s main character in the book is not nearly as reluctant to kill as the character in the movie!
The point is, Hollywood is terrified to risk anything new. You know this; they don’t like to gamble. The people in charge would much rather gamble on a proven entity, something someone else has already gambled on. If you can create something intriguing, interesting… something that generates buzz and that anyone with an Internet connection can find on Amazon, you may just have Hollywood knocking at your door. Imagine that! But even if that never happens, at the bare minimum you will have become a novelist - a REAL WRITER - and I can tell you from first hand experience, that is a great feeling.
If you’re an unproduced screenwriter, regardless of how great you think your script is, you’re basically standing in line with a million other poor souls who think their script is just as great. They’re like an angry mob with curled scripts in their upraised hands, screaming out, “Notice me! Notice me!” But the sad reality is Hollywood doesn’t notice them because there are just too many of them.
There are three BIG reasons you should seriously consider adopting your work into a novel.
First, by turning your script into a novel, you put yourself back in control of your own destiny. Once your novel hits the electronic shelves, it’s available for anyone to see. It could achieve a following, and then it’s off to the races!
Second, and perhaps more important, a very significant transformation occurs when you write a novel… you look at yourself differently. You become a Novelist. How many unproduced screenwriters can say that? I am a novelist. I am a writer. I wrote a book. All these statements will be true. People will want you to autograph a copy for them (you’ll have paperbacks available on Amazon at no cost to you; this is one of the best-kept secrets on the Internet! Check out CreateSpace.com). Friends and family members will look at you differently.
And you need that. As a human being, you need the affirmation that says I AM A WRITER and the evidence to back it up. Your subconscious needs it. Things change after you become a published writer. Priorities become clearer. Whereas one day, you were pursuing a hobby, once you get your book on Amazon, you’re no longer a hobbyist. You’re an author, with an Author’s Profile page. Real ISBN numbers. You’re a writer. And who knows? You may just learn that you enjoy writing fiction in novel form better than you enjoy writing scripts. If that happens, embrace it. Go with it. There will always be opportunities down the road to take one of your original novels in the other direction and convert it into a screenplay. The key here is to write. That’s the most important thing. Write!
And third, your novel from script has something that separates it from the vast majority of novels ever written, regardless of popularity: it can never be classified as unfilmable! (Unfathomable maybe, but not unfilmable!)
When you turn your screenplay into a novel, you accomplish an amazing thing...
Your original story sees the light of production, which is critical for people like us who not only yearn to create, but we yearn to entertain, to move, to inspire. We want people to experience our stories and be affected by them, entertained by them. This isn’t just about selling a script, it’s about moving an audience. The published novel doesn’t need actors, music, lights, camera, sound. It can be enjoyed as is. It is totally self-contained.
Well, I hope I’ve sparked your interest in taking your original screenplay and turning it into a novel. Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of how we do it.
There are three primary tasks you will need to perform to convert your screenplay into a novel.
- Convert the tense from present to past
- Embellish the descriptions
- Determine Point-of-View (POV) and write from inside the head of your characters
Screenplays are written in present tense because they’re meant to be experienced in real-time, the way a person seated in a theater experiences a movie. But most novels are written in past tense. There are a few exceptions, like the novel Jack Wakes Up by Seth Harwood. But because these types of novels are rare, they’re a little harder to pull off. I recommend sticking to convention and writing your novel in the past tense.
Plus, there’s a reason the past tense resonates with us. It seems more authentic. It’s like, an amazing story has occurred and someone feels compelled to tell it. Like the group of coworkers hanging out by the water-cooler on Monday morning. The storyteller of the group says, “I gotta tell you about this crazy thing that happened to me over the weekend,” and we all pause to hear what happened.
You’re going to need to go through your script page by page and convert those pesky present-tense verbs to past-tense verbs.
I recommend going through your entire screenplay and doing this first step before proceeding to the next. The good thing about doing this step first is that you’ll end up with your first draft in novel format fairly quickly, although it may look skimpy in terms of word count, but we’ll get to that later.
So where, for example, in my script I have present tense verbs, I need to convert them to past-tense verbs. I’ve highlighted the verbs in bold:
INT. SALOON - DAY
People clear themselves of the shooting lanes as they force their backs against the walls. Chucho’s men quietly draw their weapons, pulling back hammers, etc.
There is a moment of intense silence as eyes narrow and teeth set. The stable boy is on pins and needles from his hiding spot beneath the stairs. No one moves a muscle...
And then it happens.
Chucho goes for his guns and Reno hits his elbows against his sides and two pistols fly into his waiting hands and in a flash he guns down Chucho along with one of his men standing by the door.
Just as Reno fires, he rolls over the bar, narrowly avoiding the buckshot coming from the shotgun from the man on his right. Two more of Chucho’s men go down amid exploding wood and glass.
Reno takes out two more gun-wielding targets at the top of the stairs, but his handguns are clicking now, out of ammo.
Through the back door two more of Chucho’s men burst in, guns ablazing. Reno leaps behind a capsized table and methodically hits a release on the straps connected to the middle of his chest.
Suddenly the silver cannister on his back pops open and a shotgun springs over his shoulder and into his hands. Before the men can react, Reno blasts them into the wall.
The place is filled with gunsmoke amid the groans of dying men and the muffled cries of huddled villagers. Reno rises to his feet and surveys the damage.
Behind him, Chucho crawls through the smoke and blood and corpses and grabs a gun. He quickly rolls around to shoot Reno in the back.
The stable boy sees this and shouts.
So the first pass of the screenplay into novel form will be the process of simply removing the scene headers and converting the verbs.
In the saloon, people cleared themselves of the shooting lanes as they forced their backs against the walls. Chucho’s men quietly drew their weapons, pulling back the hammers…
There was a moment of intense silence as eyes narrowed and jaws tightened. The stable boy was on pins and needles from his hiding spot beneath the stairs. No one moved a muscle.
And then it happened.
Chucho went for his guns and Reno hit his elbows against his sides and two pistols flew into his waiting hands and in a flash he gunned down Chucho along with one of his men standing by the door.
Just as Reno fired, he rolled over the bar, narrowly avoiding the buckshot coming from the shotgun from the man on his right. Two more of Chucho’s men went down amid exploding wood and glass.
Reno took out two more gun-wielding targets at the top of the stairs, but his handguns were clicking now. Out of ammo.
Through the back door two more of Chucho’s men burst in, guns blazing. Reno leapt behind a capsized table and methodically hit a release on the straps connected to the middle of his chest.
Suddenly the silver cannister on his back popped open and a shotgun sprung over his shoulder and into his hands. Before the men could react, Reno blasted them into the wall.
The place filled with gunsmoke amid the groans of dying men and the muffled cries of huddled villagers. Reno rose to his feet and surveyed the damage.
Behind him, Chucho crawled through the smoke and blood and corpses and grabbed a gun. He quickly rolled around to shoot Reno in the back.
The stable boy saw this and shouted, “Senior!”
At this point, don’t get hung up in the mechanics of the text, or point-of-view concerns, etc. The goal here is to just do a clean swipe of your text and get the entire story down in past tense. Sometimes, the verb form will throw you off. For example, I had to double-check the past tense form of the verb burst which just happens to be the same as the present tense. And, in the second paragraph, it didn't sound right to say "teeth set" (past tense), so I changed it to, "jaws tightened."
Determining the POV
If your story can be told entirely from the view point of a single character, all the better. An example would be Michael Douglas' character in The Game. Everything we see is from his point-of-view. We never leave him. It's what helps make that movie so effective. If you can pull this off, I recommend writing your novel in first-person ("I" form), as in, "I stepped out of the shower and froze... there was a dead woman lying on my bed, painted entirely in gold..."
Most of the time, however, this is not possible to do, as the story will break from the main character and there will be scenes where that character is not present. That's why you will most likely use the third-person POV ("He/She"). More about this in a bit.
Embellishing The Descriptions & Writing From Inside Your Characters' Heads
These two steps usually come more naturally to some writers than to others. If you’re used to writing screenplays, you’ve trained yourself to keep your descriptions sparse, only showing the most relevant details to get the point across. And as you know, we only learn about what’s inside the character’s head from seeing him or her in action. But in a novel, you’ll want to bring life to your characters and their surroundings. For descriptions, make them breathe. Sensory detail is the key. How much sensory detail you put into your descriptions is entirely up to you and remember, you’ll get better at this with practice. As for your character’s thoughts, emotions and feelings, you’ll get those by slipping inside the skin of your character.
Now that we’ve got the entire screenplay down with past tense verbs, we’re going to go through the draft again and embellish the descriptions and write from inside our characters’ heads.
Here’s how the original script introduced the main character (notice the sparse description):
EXT. DESERT - DAY
The CLIP-CLOP of horse hooves announce the arrival of our hero, RENO NEVADA. He is so drunk he can barely stay in the saddle of his giant, prehistoric-looking BLACK STALLION.
A hand falls from his side and drops an empty bottle of whiskey into the sand. He is a drunk nomad, wandering aimlessly.
His wanderings take him near a solitary church and its cemetery where a handful of mourners have gathered for a mass burial. We hear the wails of grief from their suffering as sheeted bodies are dragged from a buckboard filled with dead.
Reno doesn't seem to notice. He rides on, slumped in his saddle. As he roams the southwestern frontier, there is a MONTAGE of burial scenes like the one above, interspersed with images of the dead hanging from trees. Vultures reign.
All around Reno are signs of death, pestilence and disease.
Here is the translated opening scene of the novel with the description embellished and character thoughts and feelings added:
The heavy, droning clip-clop of Samson’s hooves along the dusty trail felt like nails driven into Nevada’s aching skull. His bloodshot eyes could barely open and when they tried, the painful glare of the blistering sun caused them to shut tight again. He loved his horse without question; but why did the beast have to be so damn gigantic? Why couldn’t he have rescued a regular-sized horse, whose hoof-prints were not the size of Texas?
He struggled to bring the end of a whiskey bottle to his parched lips, but upon noticing it dry, released his grip and let the bottle tumble to the ground. No more whiskey. He’d have to remedy that soon. Luckily, somewhere in the recesses of his besotted mind, he knew the town was not far away.
As Samson carried him along, Reno found himself emerging now and again from various states of drunkenness, only to notice odd things taking place around him. He remembered passing the cemetery of a solitary church where a handful of mourners, all dressed in black, had gathered for a burial. But unless his eyes had deceived him, he would have sworn that in the nearby buckboard was not just one or two or even three bodies wrapped in sheets, but dozens of bodies. The wails of grief knelled in his ears and made him to wince, and he watched in numbed silence as the parishioners dragged the bodies out one by one and heaped them into a massive grave.
All the while, as he slowly made his way south across the dry scorching desert into Mexican high country, the continuous images of death, pestilence and disease registered deep into Reno’s subconscious. He found himself wondering: Were these visions real or were they drunken imaginings?
At one point he thought he saw the weather-beaten bodies of a young woman and her children twisting in the wind, each dangling at the end of a rope from an outstretched branch of a twisted oak. He lifted his head and blinked numbly at the gruesome sight, and a shiver that chilled him to his core gave him his answer. These visions were real.
It takes a little practice to get the hang of this but I found that if I really let myself go during the writing of the rough draft, I could embellish the description and feel first-hand what the character was experiencing. Remember, it’s a lot easier to overwrite during draft mode, and then trim later during the final revisions.
Here's another example from the opening pages of my screenplay THE TYPEWRITER: The lives of a man and his family are threatened by the discovery of a mysterious typewriter with the ability to see into the future... and into the mind of a psychotic killer.
EXT. ONE-STORY RESIDENTIAL - DAY
JACK HARRISON pulls up in his shiny Lexus which proudly displays a FIRST CHOICE REALTY door magnet. He exits, goes to the trunk of his car. We can tell that Jack’s good-looking, charming and maybe, we find out later, a tad bit smarmy.
He pops the trunk and pulls out a FOR SALE sign, along with a notebook, pen, tape measure, etc.
Jack pierces the front yard with the sign, does a quick scan of the neighborhood. It’s nice. He digs in his pocket for the house key.
INT. HOUSE - DAY
Jack enters the house and looks around. He speaks into his phone recorder as he takes stock of the house, making notes, measuring distances, etc.
JACK (recording his notes) Hardwood floors in the entry. (looking closely) Looks like mahogany. Maybe maple.
He takes notes for all the rooms he enters...
JACK (CONT’D) Nice open floor plan. Nice size master on the ground floor with two large walk-ins...
Jack pauses at the top of the stairs. He notices a substantial CRACK in the ceiling, probably due to water damage.
JACK (CONT’D) (into his phone) Damn. Significant fissure in the ceiling just above the living room. (to himself) I’m gonna have to fix that.
He shakes his head in disappointment, then spots the draw cord leading to the attic. He reaches up and pulls it, extending the hinged wooden stairs.
INT. HOUSE - ATTIC
Jack’s head emerges. He looks around. The room is large and empty.
JACK (impressed with the size) Wow.
Most of the attic floor is unfinished, but a small portion, near the furnace, is paneled. As Jack steps toward the furnace to get a better look, his foot lands on a board that jars slightly loose.
JACK (CONT’D) Uh-oh.
Jack bends down, tries to put the board back into place. He turns it around, like a puzzle piece. As he looks down, something under the flooring catches his eye.
A small suitcase. Like a carry-on, but hard-shelled.
He sits down, pulls it out of its hiding place and onto his lap. His fingers feather over the textured surface. There’s a word embossed on the top of the case: ROYAL.
Jack opens it.
It’s a typewriter, circa 1930’s. The kind the old newsmen used to hammer on. His eyes shine, like a kid in a candy store. The thing is in remarkably good shape.
The sound of someone KNOCKING downstairs jolts Jack back to the here and now. He sets the case aside, carefully descends the creaking attic stairs, then hurries down the second-floor stairs leading to the front door.
And here is the converted scene:
He found the typewriter on Tuesday, April 14th, just after 9:30 in the morning. Jack Harrison pulled his shiny Lexus into the driveway at 2314 Crescent Heights Drive and stepped out. He was a thirty-something professional, in good shape, with a head full of blond hair that he tended to wear long, just over the collar. He wore slacks, designer shoes, and a dress shirt unbuttoned at the neck. On the ring finger of his left hand was a slim gold band and on the sides of his car were vinyl door magnets advertising his company: FIRST CHOICE REALTY. With his hands on his hips, he tilted his head and took a moment to appraise the property. It was a one-story brick home, just under two thousand square feet, built in the late sixties. The yard was a disaster, but the front of the house - with its red brick walls, white mold trim, and set of double doors with their inlay of frosted glass - wasn’t as bad as expected and his spirits rose. It would definitely sell; it just needed a little work on its curb appeal. A pair of azaleas by the front steps would work nicely. Satisfied with his appraisal, he went to the rear of his car, popped it open and grabbed one of the dozen yard signs inside. The sky above was gray and threatening rain; a breeze tumbled past him, blowing his well combed hair out of place. He stood in the middle of the front yard and ran his fingers through his hair, taming it back into place and straightening his upturned collar. Jack considered himself no more vain than most in his particular line of work; he knew the importance of image and enjoyed dressing to play the part. He pierced the lawn with the prongs of the sign then mashed it into place with the sole of his black dress shoe, leveraging his full body weight. He glanced back up at the house, then up one end of the street and down the other. He was juggling numbers in his head, performing calculations, approximating payment amounts. Eventually he would settle on just the right asking price. The key to the house was hidden inside a small metal lock-box attached to the front door. He thumbed the four-digit combination, took out the key and used it to open the front door. Stepping inside, he withdrew a heavy-duty Stanley tape measure from his left pocket and a cellular phone from his right. The house was dark and quiet. He stood in the middle of the foyer surrounded by rich mahogany flooring and dark green wallpaper. “Hello?” he called out. A habit of his, from years of entering homes presumed empty but surprisingly weren’t. Not hearing a reply, Jack sucked in a deep breath and then proceeded with his routine. He went through the house methodically, recording the dimensions of each room, notating them into his phone along with any special features or peculiar drawbacks. He acquainted himself with the home just as he would meeting someone new for the first time, getting to know them. “Nice wood flooring in the entrance and throughout,” he said, stamping his foot, his phone to his lips. In the kitchen, he recorded a note about the double range oven. Gas and electric. The stainless steel sink. The red oak cabinets. He wielded his tape measure like a sword, taking measurements, recording the details into his phone. He opened the sliding glass doors to the back yard and walked outside, making notes about its size, the condition of the exterior fence, the large red wood deck. “Needs stripping,” he noted into the recorder. He entered the bedrooms, noting their dimensions and the size of the adjoining closets. He stepped inside the master bathroom and made a note about the large pedestal tub next to the walk-in shower. “Nice,” he added, running his fingers along the cold cast iron surface. He went into every room and walked over every square foot. The entire process took well over an hour and he captured and recorded every detail the home had to offer. When he returned to the den, something caught his eye. He stopped and frowned. There was a water mark in the ceiling, a long narrow stretch running right down the center, the edges stained with mildew. He stood on his toes to get a better look. “Water damage in the ceiling,” he grumbled into his phone. He reached up and a piece of drywall flaked off in his hand, sprinkling debris on his head and shoulders. “Gonna have to get Gus to fix that.” He shook the debris from his hair and patted his shoulders clean. Then, using a familiar motion, combed his hair back into place with his fingers. The water damage was troubling. Jack needed to look into that to make sure it wasn’t something serious. He slipped his phone and measuring tape back into his pockets and ducked around the corner, searching the ceiling for the door to the attic. He stopped when he spotted the white drawstring dangling above his head in the middle of the hallway to the right of the den. He reached up, grabbed the end of the string in his fingers and tugged. The door to the attic opened and a collapsible wooden ladder extended at his feet. The attic smelled dank and musty. He frowned at the cobwebs blocking the entrance. He waved his arms past them and ascended into the attic, keeping himself crouched to avoid banging his head on the beams overhead. A single bulb with a pull chain hung from the rafters. He pulled the chain and squinted as bright light filled the attic. An old furnace, cased in stainless steel panels, sat in a corner on top of a shallow aluminum pan to catch condensation. Jack could see the pan was full of dirty water - that probably accounted for the leak in the ceiling beneath his feet. He had to balance himself carefully on the rafters; only half of the attic had plywood flooring, the rest were 2 x 6 wooden beams with the typical pink cotton-candy insulation in between. Okay, so the furnace needed work. He’d have to hire a plumber to give it a once-over. The drainage pan could just be clogged, that happened sometimes… “Shit,” he cried out, almost losing his balance. He had stepped on a corner of the plywood flooring that buckled under his weight. As he stooped to get a better look, he saw that the board hadn’t buckled as he thought. It was a cut-out piece, designed to cover a small section of the floor. Jack scratched the back of his neck as he mind tried to make sense of it. He reached down and removed the puzzle piece and revealed a hidden section of the attic. As he squinted to get a better look, he caught sight of something hidden in the corner under the plywood. He lowered himself and, being careful not to tear a hole in his slacks, dropped to all fours. Carefully, he stuck his arm into the wedged opening and his fingers landed against something hard and cold. Something metal. Soon, they found a handle. He pulled the object free. It was a typewriter. Still in its case, Jack recognized what it was right away. Big, bulky, with the word ROYAL in large embossed letters on the top of its gritty surface. It was heavy too. He made a face as he struggled it free and then readjusted his position, sitting cross-legged with the thing in his lap. Alone with the just the case and the long dark shadows from the bulb overhead, he eased the cover open. His eyes widened and he absentmindedly licked his lips. In his lap was an ancient typewriter, from the old gumshoe days of the fifties, in seemingly perfect condition. “Wow,” he said, running his fingers over the cold metallic keys. He felt like a kid on Christmas morning. And that’s when he heard a hollow knock at the front door.
A WORD ABOUT WORD COUNT
The ideal word count for your novel from script is 50,000 words. That should be the target you shoot for. This makes for a nice-sized novel and a 200+ page book. If you fall a few thousand words short, don’t worry about it. A lean, tight novel that moves at a fast clip is beauty in itself. But if you’re hovering below 40,000 words, I would recommend spending some time to see if you’ve cut anything too short. Descriptions, dialogue, interior monologue, etc. Don’t be wordy just for the sake of length, but if your novel is too short, chances are you haven’t given ample attention to some of the crucial details.
REGARDING POINT OF VIEW
Generally speaking, the point of view you use should be that of the main character in the scene. But one of the tricky parts of novelizing your screenplay is how to handle Point-of-View (POV) transitions between scenes.
Suppose, for example, you have a scene like this that cuts away from your main character:
EXT. SHAFT ENTRANCE - ABOVE - DAY
While the CRACK, CRACK, CRACK of the whip echoes through the canyon, our mysterious friend has penetrated the perimeter of the hideout and found an entry at the very top.
He is revealed to be an Indian, probably Navajo based on his clothes, and his movements are very stealth-like. He is known by the name LONG HAWK. He disappears inside the mine shaft.
The main character isn’t even aware of what’s happening in the above scene. To do this in a novel, I used a standard scene break convention (”* * *”) preceded and followed by a carriage return:
Harlan expertly landed the tip of the splayed leather against Reno's back in a long, thick slash. Reno's shirt ripped neatly open down his back, the edges tinged in blood. Pain rocketed through him as he clenched his teeth and clutched his eyes shut. He braced himself for worse pain to come...
* * *While the CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! of the whip reverberated throughout the canyon, the man who had been following the gang all across the desert plains quietly made his way to the top of an outcropping of golden rock and carefully peered out.
His name was Long Hawk and he bore the contemporary Navajo clothing of the day: a buckskin waist coat, loose trousers tucked at the calves into moccasin boots, the hilt of a hunting knife above a leather sheath on his hip. He wore a red bandana tied tightly around his forehead, holding into place the long black hair which was parted cleanly down the center. A pearly white cougar fang dangled from each earlobe. His eyes were keen and sharp as they carefully scanned the narrow entrance to the mineshaft outstretched below him. He saw the idle lookouts – one on each side. Having seen everything he needed to, he quietly disappeared back into the shadows of the canyon.
Clear enough, right? But how do you handle something in the scene where there is no point-of-view character? In screenplay parlance, this is called DRAMATIC IRONY. Something happens on stage that is revealed to the audience, but is unrevealed to one or more of the characters.
Here’s an example of dramatic irony in the RENO NEVADA RIDES TO HELL screenplay:
INT. SALOON - NIGHT
The saloon turns into a regular jam session as other men with instruments join in. Guitarists join each other and play and soon, young men are twirling women, laughing, not a care in the world. Drinks flow, men slap each other’s backs.
During all this, the smoke that rises from every lit cigar, pipe, you name it, takes on a strange, UNEARTHLY quality. The large fireplace in the back burns in a strange turquoise color as well. No one notices this unusual phenomenon.
The smoke coils around the inhabitants of the saloon, intoxicating them with a powerful elixir, yet none seems aware of its effect. The mood morphs into one of extreme celebration.
We see the smoke as it drifts up, up through the ceiling, up through the floorboards, up to the rooms above the saloon...
And here’s how I handled it in the novelization:
Down in the saloon, the festival was fully underway. Guitars appeared and there was singing and dancing. The center of the saloon had been cleared of tables to allow for the twirling and catching of their female partners. Drinks flowed as men laughed and slapped each other on the back.
During this, but unnoticed by all, the smoke emanating from every cigar, pipe and cigarette began to take on a strange, unearthly quality. The large fireplace in the back burned in an uncharacteristic hue. The blue smoke filled the room, but no one seemed to notice this unusual phenomenon.
The smoke seemed to have a mind of its own as it coiled around the inhabitants of the saloon, intoxicating them with a powerful elixir, yet no seemed aware of its effect on them. The mood morphed into one of extreme celebration.
The smoke drifted up, up through the ceiling, up through the floorboards of the second floor, up to the rooms above the saloon.
Once you get your book finished and for sale on Amazon, you can then create a trailer using iMovie to draw attention to it.
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
If you've found this article of value and want to see a lot more examples and learn even more tricks, then I invite you to check out the complete 100-page guide on Amazon. In the book, I share my own process for creating emotion and keeping the reader engaged.
I hope I’ve piqued your interest into turning your screenplay into a novel. Don’t let your script sit on a shelf somewhere collecting dust. It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to write it. It was hard work. Increase its marketability by turning it into a novel. You’ll enjoy doing it and at the end of the process, you’ll have more than doubled your chances of getting noticed. And more importantly, you will have changed the way you look at yourself.
Good luck and keep writing.
About the Author
Rick lives in Charlotte, North Carolina and wrote his first novel under the pseudonym Flash Rivers. He can be found on the web at RichardGarrison.com
He's repped by Jackson Starr, of STARRPOWER TALENT (starrpower.com)
Come along with me as I convert the awesome game THE LAST OF US into a novel using the principles outlined in the book. Start with Chapter One and see first-hand just how easy it is!
If you've purchased my novel RENO NEVADA RIDES TO HELL and would like to see the original screenplay from which its based, just head on over to ScriptRevolution: https://www.scriptrevolution.com/scripts/reno-nevada-rides-to-hell
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Brunelli gave the man a friendly nod and then turned to leave with me. Only I didn't leave.