How to Turn Your Book into a Movie Script
Books vs Movies, Movies vs Books- the classic argument between avid readers and movie buffs is one that will last for an eternity. For authors, seeing their books get converted into movies is an incredible feeling. Writing a movie script is different from writing a novel; even if you have the flair for writing, there are many elements of a script that require a bit of learning and constant practice. Scriptwriting is a useful skill to master and one that can greatly enhance your credibility as an author. Here’s a quick guide on how to turn your book into a movie script.
How a movie script differs from a novel
- Collaborative effort: From the idea to the characters and the plot, most novels are written by a single author. Scripts on the other hand, typically involve two or more creative minds bouncing ideas off each other. There may even be cases where the script is written and rewritten by multiple writers.
- Strict rules and guidelines: The best thing about writing a book is that you are not barred by any sort of rule when it comes to ideating and writing. You can choose to write in any style you wish and keep the book short or long. Scripts have a standard style of writing that must be followed regardless of the movie’s genre. Right from the prologue to the epilogue, you need to be careful of the content, length and overall structure.
- Scriptwriters have to work against time: Books can take months, even years to complete and get published. However, time is never an issue authors; as long as their work is out on the shelf and is being read, they will be happy. Movies have a very structured and timed process- everything from pre-production to production to release has to be organised. Scriptwriters are forced to work against time since their job is the first in the entire creative process of filmmaking.
If you’re planning to turn your book into a movie script, there are four important elements in your novel that need to be reworked.
Reconstruct the plot
If you read a book prior to watching its film adaptation, you will notice that most of the plot points of the book have either been removed or twisted around to suit the flow of the movie. This is common practice across most adapted screenplays, simply because of the movie’s restricted length. It doesn’t mean you have to chop down half of what you’ve written; you could try and maintain the key plot points and work around those plot points to create a full script.
A very important thing to consider when writing the script is to make sure that the structure of the plot is easy to follow. There may be cases where reputed actors will choose to work on the movie only if they feel the script is strong, and for them to understand the plot, the structure of your script must have a good flow.
Prioritise your characters
If your novel has multiple characters, you would have certainly spent a good amount of effort developing each character and structuring the story around each one of them. Movie scripts restrict character development to one or very few characters, so you’ll have to think about giving more screen time to a particular character. Break it down to the standard formula of a protagonist, three or four supporting characters and the antagonist. If you have an ensemble cast of characters, screen space needs to be evenly distributed between all of them. Characters help enhance the storytelling experience and if you’re able to prioritise your characters, writing the script will become easier.
Visualise your book
When you’re making the physical switch from novel to script, you also have to make the mental switch from thinking with words to thinking with moving pictures. Most of the visual aspects have to do with the setting or screenplay of your script; this part is where you also need to be very descriptive and establish the scene for the actors. Another important aspect to consider when formulating your screenplay is the pacing; your script should be able to explain when crucial plot points take place as well as how various elements of action, drama and comedy blend together.
Put the dialogue in the driver’s seat
The golden formula for any movie to hit major success is great screenplay plus great dialogue, both of which heavily depend on how good your script is. Dialogue is the element that can prove to be quite tricky because it differs greatly from the dialogue you have already written in your novel. You could still use the same dialogue but you have to structure it in a conversational manner. Remember, you are not just writing for the actors to play out their parts in the conversation, but also writing to convey a message to the audience. You need to tweak your dialogue in such a way that it keeps the audience engaged as well as moves the story forward.
Scriptwriting is surprisingly harder to master than novel writing. If you need a little motivation, here’s a list of world renowned authors who have dabbled with and hit major success in scriptwriting.
- Stephen King: Stephen King is one of the most talented individuals ever to have graced the world of literature. He has even gone on to direct a screenplay he wrote- the horror film “Maximum Overdrive”. King was initially reluctant to get into the movie industry, but after seeing many of his novels adapted into popular movies, he decided to try writing some on his own. King is credited saying, “I came to realise that films have a language of their own.”
- Roald Dahl: From a fighter pilot to one of America’s most popular children’s book authors, Roald Dahl has lived a great life. Dahl co-wrote the screenplay for the movie “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, yet his most notable screenwriting effort is an adaptation of his own novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s legacy was revived with the theatrical release of his most famous work, “The Great Gatsby.” Fitzgerald initially took up screenwriting in the hopes of earning more money. His screenwriting efforts, though many, have gone uncredited except for one movie-“Three Comrades”.
Now that you’ve got an idea about how to write a script, why not try and write a book that can be easily turned into one. Before you begin, you must read these 7 books that will help you write better. When the time comes to publish that book, putting it through a reputed self-publishing house will give you a great start to your literary journey.