Writing My 1st Screenplay: Diving In
I wonder if you can guess where some of my novel, that I'm converting into a screenplay, occurs? Or where my strong female protagonist is from? :)
I'm humbled to be working with such amazing screen writers and producers who are encouraging me right now and who believe in my novel Between Thoughts of You. Screen writing is completely different from writing a novel. Less is more. I can't wax on at length inside the head of a character. What you see, is what you get.
I'm creating and moving around snapshots. It's like being inside a time machine that goes back and forth, but only shows you snapshots.
That's how I'm diving in. (And it feels completely like diving into murky water until there is a clearing and I can see a colorful tropical fish that darts past, or I recognize a large shape below that emerges as a turtle gliding timelessly to an unknown destination.)
Transforming Between Thoughts of You into my first screenplay is fun, challenging, and tightening my writing. I never would have tried this had my friend and producer Margret Huddleston not convinced me that my book would make a great movie. So, here I am - a southerner who likes to spin a good yarn - tell a meandering story - am now condensing all chapters into tight scenes - or cutting out chapters altogether.
My novel has two main characters: a Brooklyn-born child of Sicilian immigrants (a 90-year-old millionaire dying in his Tuscan villa with a 60-year-old secret) and a Japanese-Hawaiian young woman (traumatized by betrayal and the death of her infant) who cares for him. The novel occurs in Tuscany, Sicily, a Northern California WW11 Japanese internment camp, Oahu, and Manhattan. These are where my "snapshots" occur—whether they are from the past, or in the present moment together in Tuscany or New York. This format is a bit like the back and forth stories in Fried Green Tomatoes, one of my favorite films.
I am cutting out scenes, slimming down moments, cutting out descriptions of how a character is feeling, and switching it up with movement: tapping of a restless foot, a twitch of the eye, a tense jaw, a punch into a wall... Only what can be seen is allowed. And then I move on. The pace is faster. The scenes more vivid. What may have taken a chapter, now is seen within one minute of acting. There is no telling, only showing. And everything that appears, even a random sign on the back of a barn wall, is intentional with meaning, so no fluff is allowed. I love it. And this endeavor is teaching me, even more than my MFA courses in New York, to be a better, tighter, writer. I'm excited to transition another novel of mine, Uriel's Mask, into a spec screenplay too, at the request of another friend. And if something springs from it, wonderful. If not, the journey is so worth diving into.