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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

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

Open and self-enclosed novels



Allan Massie in the Spectator draws a distinction between open and self-enclosed novels in a short but succinct piece.

By the self-enclosed novel, I mean one which makes no reference — or almost no reference — to anything beyond itself. It belongs to its age of course, but it does not appear to be set in time. Time naturally passes, as it must in a narrative, but there is no suggestion that events in the world of fact beyond the novel might impinge on its characters, influence their behaviour, or affect the course of their lives. The doors of the novel are closed against the winds of the world.




April 22, 2008 Posted by | Novel | | Leave a comment

Showcase: DailyLit

Stephanie at So many Books has been using DailyLit, which I only heard of through her. Several of her readers say they prefer a book in the hand, mostly because the instalment was too short: they just couldn’t wait!

I decided to go for Anna Karenina. But when the confirmatory email came through, I got the option to order the first episode straight away, which I felt compelled to do. Though the intro to AK is so often quoted

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way

I forgot how funny the first few paragraphs were.

Experiencing such a small dose of Tolstoy it is obviously not going to suit many ardent readers. But there is something to be said for having to wait. Let the small, enjoyable dollop stew for 24 hours. Build up the anticipation for the next part. Spend some time reading around the book and author while waiting. In any case you read so much about so many things, the next episode will be there before you know it. (Actually, in advanced settings you can chose from three size settings to get more per email or even get the next episode straight away…). Let’s face it, this is for people who are meant to be working, trawling through the emails first thing in the morning.

::

For an inexperienced writer puzzling over which narrative voice to use, the first part of Anna Karenina could be as a reminder to how an intimate tone can created from the limited omniscient point of view. No need to be Tolstoy to see setting off in the first person can end up with too much of the author in the narrator.

I mentioned alter ego in the last post. There has been a study of avatars and their authors in gaming, called Alter Ego, which may have something to offer to the perennial questions about the author insinuating himself/herself in his/her own fiction.

Here are two over-views of Philip Roth’s oeuvre from on alter ego {1} {2}.

November 6, 2007 Posted by | alter ego, fiction, First lines, literary persona, Literature, narrative style, Novel, Novelist, Openings, Writing | , , | 3 Comments

The persona in literature



This short NPR interview with Dr. Wayne Flynt, retired professor of history, on whether Truman Capote wrote Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, presents as evidence a letter by Capote about the book (he was his friend of Lee’s) but also asserts ‘writers simply do not assume other literary personas’. Which is another way of saying it is possible to identify someone as the author of a set of books. To avoid muddle, this is not about a character being identified as an alter ego of the author, but what features of the text on the page makes someone say this is by a certain writer.

It’s not that they can’t, but don’t in the main, write in a way that might make you think the books were written by different people. This begs the question whether the voice of the author is just there, like a finger print, or whether it is a conscious effort to maintain consistency. Academic analyses abound. Winifred Gérin’s biography of Charlotte Bronte, illustrates how a writer develops to a mature style. This doesn’t mean to say some don’t write from the beginning as if how they write was built in.

W hat I am interested in is the authorial voice set against the narratorial voice.
A nub is in the wiki: The persona in Literature, where it writes of the mens auctoris.

There is the question of upfront parody. Most book saturated readers with above average writing skill can throw together a reasonable Jane Austin. What are they doing to make it seem pretty close if recognisably an imitation?

If it were possible to epoché the detailed knowledge of the author’s works – all the passages they know by heart which identify it – how easy would it be for the professional literary analyst to say they were the work of one author? If Jane Austin wrote a novel about the immigrant community in East London in 21 century London, would it be immediately recognisable as a Jane Austin novel?

The answer to all this might be not in any fingerprint of the author detectable in the works but that superior writers are consistently superior in their writing (when they get to it, so to speak).

When unknown score by a long dead composer appears some bright spark always pops up to say it can’t be by {insert a famous composer}.

This all reminds me of the Andre Previn Morecambe and Wise Show. This is the straight one on YouTube {1}. But in another version with commentary {2}. A certain jjo2 comments in the shorter version:

One beautifully subtle joke in the sketch – Eric is in fact playing the right notes, in the right order, but in the wrong rhythm.

Which might be the point in the business of the authorial voice in a novel.

November 6, 2007 Posted by | fiction, literary persona, Novel, Novelist, Writing | , , | Leave a comment

Openings


Compiled by Philip Norman, novelist and journalist

 

THE BEST

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen….”

1984, George Orwell

“It was the afternoon of my 81st. birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.”

Earthly Powers, Anthony Burgess

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….”

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man, in possession of a large fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austin

“Call me Ishmael…”

Moby Dick, Herman Melville

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there…”

The Go-Between, L P Hartley

“Scarlett o’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realised it when caught by her charm as the Tarlaton twins were….”

Gone with the Wind Who wrote that?


THE WORST

“It was a feature peculiar to the colonial wars of North America, that the toils and dangers of the wilderness were to be encountered before the adverse hosts could meet.”

The Last of the Mohicans, Fenomore Cooper

“By the end of the alley the fine hairs in my nostrils were starting to twitch.”

Shadows in Bronze, Lindsey Davis

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they eleoctrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t
even know what I was doing in New York.”

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

” 124 was spiteful.”

Beloved, Toni Morrison




Philip Norman journalist and novelist who in 1968 was assigned to cover the Beatles’ own business utopia, Apple Corps, from the inside. He is the author of Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly and many other books.



October 22, 2007 Posted by | fiction, First lines, Novel, Novelist, Openings | , , | Leave a comment

Doris’ onions



Well there was a large artichoke as well. Why it should matter what was in the taxi behind her rather than the interview about the award she had just been given, goes part of the way to explain the way my mind works. I guess I saw a story there. Who was the man, where had they been? Had she been writing today? Was she tetchy with the journalist because she wanted to write and not shop? That kind of thing.

The Guardian (Friday 12 Oct 07) carries a story which mentions her first words, which most of the initial pieces did not. It also embedded an edited version of the TV footage of Doris getting out of her taxi. There, as I was sure I saw the first time, were the two vegetables, or rather, the one artichoke and the net of onions. You see the artichoke first, then as she has just finished saying, Oh, Christ!”, the string of onions and the artichoke in the hands of a bewildered looking man with arm a a sling.





I did attend carefully to her response to the news of her award, loving her truculence, but my eyes were on the veg. and wondering who the man was carrying them, who turned out to be not a journalist doing Doris a favour, as was reported elsewhere, but her son Peter, who is not well.

Matt Cowan tells us it was him who did the first interview and that it was a member of his crew who opened the cab door.

Alan Taylor in the Scottish Sunday Herald under the byline, Nobel turnips wait till Lessing couldn’t care less, after a turn on Swedes being turnips, turns to the plight of the serious novel:

When I met her in London earlier this year she was as perky and feisty as usual, railing against the dumbing down of the book trade and the degenerate taste of readers. Where once her books sold in the tens of thousands, she said, they now sold in dribs and drabs.

Two other good pieces on Doris, (sorry not disrespectful, just love the sound of the name) The Sunday Times, today, Grandma has a knuckleduster beside her literary pen, and the New Zealand Dominion Post, wondering what she might say in her acceptance speech, who got the Literature prize before her.



October 14, 2007 Posted by | Doris Lessing, Literature, Novel, Novelist | , , | Leave a comment