From Script to Novel Writing…

Thanks to Rosalie Lario, I did my very first guest blog post this week.  And one of the discussions generated as a result centred around my transition from Scriptwriter to Novelist – two very different animals in many ways, but at the same time quite complimentary. 

Of course, as writers in whichever field we choose, we all have our own voices, styles and experiences of the writing industry and its expectations.  But I thought it might be interesting to expand upon the discussion started earlier this week and what follows is an outline of what I, as an individual, have found the key issues between scriptwriting and novel writing that I had to address.

For a start, a script works to a strict time line and there’s usually a lot to pack into those 60 or 120 minutes.  So as a scriptwriter it’s important to keep the writing punchy – action taking priority over description and dialogue saying a lot without saying much at all.  Saying that, there are exceptions – an episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot just wouldn’t be the same without the long exposition at the end of each episode.  But on the whole I suppose the rule for me was ‘less is more’ – although I did have the added luxury of having the rest of the TV screen to play with.

After all, in a script, an actor can be doing one thing, whilst something else takes place behind his back; an action that we as an audience can see, but the protagonist can’t.  Unlike in novel writing, where everything has to be seen from the protagonist’s point of view – so if he or she can’t see it, then neither can we. 

Following on from this, when it comes to scriptwriting there’s never any mention of the word ‘feel’.  After all, what is taking place in someone’s head cannot physically be conveyed on our screens.  What can be conveyed, however, is how a character reacts to these feelings, so instead of writing something along the lines of ‘Johnny feels sad’, in a script it would read ‘a tear springs into Johnny’s eye’.  Although, once again, there are exceptions to the rule – the use of a narrating voice, for example.  However, in my experience, it’s always better to find a cleverer way of imparting any necessary information – having had the question drummed into me: ‘If it can’t be shown on screen, should it really be there at all?

Then there are other considerations to take on board in a script, such as allowing both the director and actors their interpretation of what you write.  As well as the cost implications should you choose to include something along the lines of a helicopter crash or two…

I appreciate all this might imply that scriptwriting can be quite limiting.  Indeed, this is something I often found it to be.  But as I said earlier, this field is also complimentary when it comes to the penning of a novel.

Thanks to all of the above, it teaches you to write visually without being excessive on the word count, or  too obvious in what it is you want to say; it gives you a grounding in putting together real characters with believable dialogue; and when these are added to creative freedom offered through novel writing, an author can, thus, create a depth not just to his or her characters, but to the story as a whole.

Naturally, I hope I’ve managed to achieve this aim in my own book.  And as a debut novelist in the process of building up a readership (at the same time getting on with book number two), I suppose this is something only you as readers can judge…

I await your views as to whether I’ve been successful x

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6 responses to “From Script to Novel Writing…

  1. Excellent, post. As you know I'm a big fan of your novel and eagerly await the next one. So yes, all the facts lead to the conclusion that you have been successful!

  2. Glad you enjoyed the post, Mike. It wasn't always an easy transitional journey, I can tell you. And your kind words are much appreciated x

  3. Great post. I'm having the same experience taking my novel to film. As you stated 120 pages for 120 minutes does not quite equal the 389 pages of my novel. It's been a task to get it there without feeling I've left out something. I have a new found appreciation for those, like yourself who have successfully managed to accomplish both. Congratulations on a task many venture but few achieve. I hope I can defeat the odds and feel I've done both works some justice. Great Post.

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Nanette, and for your lovely words.Swapping writing genres can be a steep learning curve – I know it was for me! I wish you all the best with your adaptation and I look forward to hearing how it all goes. Let me know…Suzie x

  5. Great post, Suzie! I have another question. You talk about learning to write for the visual experience and yes, showing and never telling would certainly do that. But how about incorporating the other four senses: smell, touch, sound, taste? Could you compare how you use those?Thanks. 🙂Jacquie

  6. Hi Jacqui, Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks leaving your question.When it comes to the other four senses, a scriptwriter can easily show a character experiencing taste, smell, touch and sound as there is physical act through which these can be demonstrated. For example, a character can eat, sniff, or touch a physical item or prick an ear in the direction of a sound. A scriptwriter can then convey the character's reaction to these things in much the same way as I talked about conveying feelings, thus, showing a good or bad response to the experience x

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