At my New Hampshire Romance Writers of America meeting this month, guest speaker Dana Biscotti Myskowski gave a lecture titled Romancing the Script. Dana is a professional script writer, in addition to being a teacher of film and film studies, and she gave our group a number of insights into writing scripts, how to get them produced, and the pitfalls and turmoils of being a script writer.
Those pitfalls and turmoils sounded a lot like the same ones fiction writers have.
You’ve got this great script ( novel ) that you want to get made into a film ( published ). In order to do that you need someone willing to read it ( agent/editor ), produce it ( publisher ), market it and promote it. You need to get the right actors ( characters) into the right scenery ( setting) and develop a worthy plot that people will want to pay to go see – along the same lines that they pay to buy your book.
You usually don’t get paid until the screenplay is optioned, green lit, and then produced, much like the way you don’t get royalties until after the book is sold, and if you’re lucky enough, to get a paid advance prior to publication.
You pour your heart and soul into your script ( novel ) and most of the time it goes nowhere but to live on your laptop.
The two really are very similar.
They’re similar in concept and construct as well. You need plot, settings, dialogue, characters, and secondary characters in both.
The major difference – in my opinion – seems to be in the development aspect. In a script you’ve got roughly 120 pages to get the story told, the characters set, and the action moving from page one. Every scene tells a story and advances the plot. ( Okay, that happens in books, too.) But in the novel, the writer has much more page time to develop the characters, give that internal dialogue a voice, and get into the character’s head so that the reader knows what they are thinking and going through on an internal level.
A film is visual. The words of the script are in place to give you a picture – a real one – of what is happening. It is an external medium.You don’t leave it to the film watcher’s imagination to figure out what is happening, you show them. In a book, you use your words to paint that picture you want to give the reader. This is more an internal medium and you do – to some extent -rely on the reader’s imagination for them to “see” the word pictures you are showing them.
Whether you write scripts, novels, scripts based on novels, or anything else, the most important thing to remember with all of this is that : you are writing. You are doing something you love, something that gives you unlimited pleasure. And hopefully, something you can share with another that will also give that person the same pleasure.
Writing: it’s a good thing.