Sunday, March 21, 2010
The Script vs The Novel
This image was done by one of the very talented followers of this blog (xxCammyLoverxx). I've always wished I had the ability to create visual images. I don't, but I'm glad she does! When the Random House website for Sammy gets updated, I hope we'll have a gallery wall where reader art can be displayed. Anyway, thanks CammyLover. You are very talented! Onto news: It almost doesn't seem fair, but I received a couple of bound galleys for Sammy Keyes and the Wedding Crasher this week. That’s right, I, who already know what happens, have the "book", and you, who are having bad dreams about it, don't. Sorry! (I'm having anxiety over some of your bad dream comments -- what if after all this time you don't like it. Argh!) Anyway, for those of you who don't know exactly what a bound galley is, basically it's the paperback pre-version of a book that will come out in hardcover six months down the road (and subsequently come out in actual paperback a year and six months down the road!). Bound galleys have mistakes in them (sometimes a lot of mistakes), and their purpose is to give critics, book reviewers, and the like plenty of time to read the book and write a review timed to (approximately) coincide with the books release date. I have never been an official book (or movie, or, you know, any sort of) critic, and I don’t think I would want to. I love the critics who love my work, and I'm annoyed with the ones who pick-pick-pick; especially the ones who don't seem to get the larger picture of what I'm trying to accomplish. So maybe I don't accomplish it with them. Maybe I shouldn't care. But I'd be lying to say it doesn't sting when I read something negative about a work I've poured my heart and soul into for a couple of years. I've never actually been slammed by a reviewer, but I have felt misunderstood. And helpless. I mean, there's no rebuttal to a review. It's that critic's opinion. And it's printed and read by how many people? And what gives authority to their opinion? They aren’t required to obtain a critic’s license (or even a learner's permit!). So what qualifies them to criticize the work of others? Maybe they should write a book and see a) how hard it is to finish, and b) what it feels like to be critiqued. Well, I've been having a pretty eye-opening experience these past few weeks. Sort of a girl-in-the-mirror thing. I may not ever have been paid to be a critic, but that doesn't mean I'm not a critic. How many times have I said, The movie wasn't nearly as good as the book! Lots. Either they left out my favorite parts, or they put in things that just seemed so unnecessary, or they cast it so completely against my vision of the characters that the movie just didn't work for me the way the book did. And I always felt completely justified in rendering my opinion. But for the past few months I've been studying the form of screenplay writing. I've read books, scripts, etc., because I think my upcoming novel The Running Dream would make an amazing movie, and I would like to at least attempt to put my vision of how it "should be done" in a form where it might get considered. So I've been writing the script. And what I'm writing differs, in parts, substantially from the form of the book. Whole scenes that are never seen in the book (because it's a first-person narrative) are written as real-time scenes in the script. And some of the scenes take place in a different order. It has been fascinating for me to see the necessity of making changes, and it's given me a newfound level of appreciation for the skill required in converting one art form into another. That doesn't mean that I no longer think that Hollywood ruins stories by adding hackneyed scenes or removing parts that contribute key character development. It does. What it means is that I now appreciated how different the forms are, and how challenging it is to work within script-writing parameters. Not everything from the book is going to make the script. It just can't. The question becomes: What to leave out without losing the integrity of the story? It's a tough call for the author to make because everything in the book is there because you felt it was necessary for the story. In the movie Flipped, there is no Champ. There is no "Mystery Pisser". I loved Champ. I loved the name of the band. I loved the little "P.I.P" grave marker in the backyard. (And if you don't know what I'm talking about, I guess you'll just have to read the book.) None of it's in the movie. Rob Reiner explained: "There just wasn't room." I was okay with that before, but I get it now. Bottom line: I think all authors should take one of their books and turn it into a script. It's an eye-opening, educational experience. One that will cause you to think twice before criticizing the movie.