Thursday, February 18, 2016

Screenplay or Novel?

by Patricia Cates

So which is better to undertake, writing a screenplay or a novel? While researching and looking through the vast variety of writing styles out there, I have found that this is indeed the question at hand.
For those of us used to the novel concept, this can pose an issue. Writing an original screenplay would mean stepping out of a comfort zone of sorts for many novelists. I am currently looking into trying out the screenplay format, because I have a feeling that it would really help me nail down scenes and even draw out more dialogue. Outlining has always been a struggle. I want to just sit down and write from beginning to end, and it gets pretty crazy. It's literally impossible. So lately I have found that it’s easier to sort scenes when they aren’t engrossed in lengthy descriptions, and thus the flow of the story comes into focus quicker. Although this is possible with novel writing, the screenplay format tends to feel more organized. It does look a bit choppy on paper, and I think that’s why I’ve avoided it in the past. Back in high school we had to read quite a few plays, and to me it was only 'good fun' when we read them aloud. Plus…I just like books!
So many readers complain that their beloved books are lost in translation when moving to the big screen. That's a huge fear of mine. If this is the case, then shouldn't we simply write our books as if they were guaranteed to become box-office blockbusters at some point in time? Wishful thinking perhaps, but some people have had a ton of luck with this. What attracts me most to screenplays right now is that---should the work ever be published or produced in any form---it seems more feasible that the content wouldn’t be questioned as much as to what the writer intended. I mean…it’s ALL right there.  A quick example of this is the third installment of the Hunger Games. They did a wonderful job on the movie. However, I found Mockingjay to be the least enjoyable read out of the entire series because of the long descriptive scenes, but boy did it work on the screen. So maybe there's a happy middle ground somewhere. The trick is finding it. 
In order to find some great examples of excellently written screenplays, I checked out The Writers Guild of America list termed the 101 Greatest Screenplays. It's no surprise that many of them just happen to be book adaptations. They have Casablanca listed as the #1 screenplay of all time. The movie is based off of the book “Everybody Comes to Rick’s” by Murray Burnett. When they say, ”Based off of the novel by ___________,” it makes me crazy because I know I’ll have to get the book and read it; and then critique whether or not they kept it pure, improved upon it, or did it a gross injustice. For anyone else interested in finding inspiration, you can view the WGA list of top screenplays here!
The Academy Awards are coming up in a few weeks and I am planning on paying close attention to the screenplay adaptations and original screenplay categories to see who wins. The nominees are so vastly different. Should you be interested in seeing them ahead of time, the contenders can be found at I was excited to see a few favorites on here. If you are a mom or dad, I’m sure you will agree that Inside Out was pretty cute. What a great message it sent for audiences of all ages. It was not adapted from anything...all original.
If any of you have delved into this art of screenplay writing---please feel free share your attempts, successes or failures with screenplay writing.

1 comment:

  1. I drive my husband crazy because I always have to read the book before we see the movie- but that's actually how I've found a lot of my favorite books & authors. A friend recommended I read "Confessions of a Shopaholic", and it seemed kind of silly, but now Sophie Kinsella is one of my favorite authors and I've read all of her books. They are just so funny and fun, and they're just great entertainment. I will check out those lists!



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