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Novel vs. Screenplay

PHOTO FILM NOVEL pile of scripts

Photo from: Christopher Fowler*’s Blog

‘The differences between a screenplay and a novel are equivalent to the differences between a blueprint and a finished building.’

–Peter Bauer

The idea came to me to search on novel vs. script, without really knowing precisely what I was looking for. Mostly about, Am I writing a novel or a screenplay?, and if others puzzle over and articulate on this. But one thing leads to another.

Rebecca Chace, a published novelist, writing in Publishing Perspectives, did screenplay to novel to screenplay: Literary 360: Rebecca Chace on Going from Screenplay to Novel to Screenplay. Summary:  if you write a screenplay then feel like writing the novel, put the script away and write from scratch.

I don’t think I could do that. I’m pretty sure I’d be checking scenes in the script and trying to pad it out with prose and re-jig. Though they say since a script is for a film – sound and vision – how you piece together the story is so radically different in a novel, that’s not going to achieve the result.

True perhaps of the narrative structure, but the scenes you have written in a script can be visualised so well, are bound to be there as you write your novel. After all you sit there seeing the scenes and then you write the script. I can see one particular part of a story I wrote. I can live inside this place, move around it so easily, even ‘film’ extra shots and re-see them edited in where I think they might fit. How to ‘epoché’ the lot written as a script to sit down and write from scratch looks impossible from where I’m sitting.

At the same time, how can you not think of the beginning of a novel, a long, drawn out languorous first few paragraphs, and not see it or attempt to frame it visually? O.K., pick a really hard one to be awkward. Para 1, Book 1, The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil, [Wilkins/Kaiser translation].

There was a depression over the Atlantic. It was traveling eastwards, towards an area of high pressure over Russia, and still showed no tendency to move northwards around it. The isotherms and isotheres were fulfilling their functions. The atmospheric temperature was in proper relation to the average annual temperature, the temperature of the coldest as well as of the hottest month, and the a-periodic monthly variation in temperature. The rising and the setting of the sun and of the moon, the phases of the moon, Venus and Saturn’s rings, and many other important phenomena, were in accordance with the forecasts in the astronomical yearbooks. The vapour in the air was at its highest tension, and the moisture in the air was at its lowest. In short, to use an expression that describes the facts pretty satisfactorily, even though it is somewhat old-fashioned: it was a fine August day in the 1913.

MWQ has never been filmed. Not because of that intro that could be scripted, but it’s an essayist novel. Always had the same trouble with A la Research, though it’s been attempted usually in part such as Time Regained, Raul Ruiz,1999. (Sidenote: BBC radio version of Proust was effective. Pinter’s Proust Play – a screenplay no one would film – was brilliant, but had whole chunks of the book missing. Pinter decided to leave out the Madeline, and use the sound of bells as a linking device. But this is another subject: film script vs. radio script)

How To People all over the place are having their say about novel and script [screenplay]. The Novel vs. The Screenplay: A Practical Guide for Talented Writers by James Bonnet in Storymaking.com. One thing caught my eye:

…the screenplay can be an excellent first draft for a novel.

Anyone who has started writing a story, who is interested in both forms, knows this can go either way. And sometimes there can be such a conflict that a novel and a script are developed in parallel without a final decision about which to finish and which to drop. The advantage of doing both is if you were shifting more to novel – but you’ve been playing  with a script – you’re ready to think about the adaptation! Then there’s the thing about writing a novel in a film like way. Common now. But go back to writers like Graham Greene.

From Screenplay to Novel

Peter Bauer says briefly pretty much the same thing (‘The differences between a screenplay and a novel are equivalent to the differences between a blueprint and a finished building.’ ), but shows how the script can’t just be transposed into a novel and why.

All these things are what you work out for yourself but it’s handy to have someone laying it out clearly.

Screenplay vs. Novel in Anatomy of Perceval, 20 July 2013. All sorts of writing things and 6 degrees to.

(Every wonder if a website on writing you are reading is just some guy in a bedroom with a dream? He hasn’t got a published novel nor is he a Hollywood scriptwriter…)

* wiki: Christopher Fowler

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September 15, 2013 Posted by | Novel, Pinter, Raúl Ruiz, screenplay, screenwriting | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

FILM ESSAY/REVIEW Towards a Perverse Neo-Broque Cinematic Aesthetic: Raúl Ruiz’s Poetics of Cinema



Towards a Perverse Neo-Baroque Cinematic Aesthetic: Raúl Ruiz’s Poetics of Cinema


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June 12, 2011 Posted by | Godard, Jean-Luc Godard, Raúl Ruiz, Walter Benjamin | Leave a comment