adapting a novel for film



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  • #2
    I read the article.

    I can feel the novelistâ€TMs pain… Can you?

    O "Translating a novel to film is an act of controlled vandalism." (A novelist's point of view, I'm sure; a reason for a novelist to try to write the screenplay himself/herself - keep the vandalism to a minimum.)

    O Paraphrasing: â€Internal novels are almost impossible to adapt.†(Vandalism gone rampant when successful?)

    O "There's always a problem; you want to hug the book closely." (The novelist's impulse as screenwriter; same as above.)

    O "The role of the novelist mustn't be to hover around the project [if writing the screenplay himself/herself] like its bad conscience." (Hard to do, must be done.)

    O Paraphrasing: â€The film version is not my novel anymore.†(A screenwriter's job is to preserve the novel's soul, but how often does this happen?)

    O â€There are only two reasons to adapt your own novel. One is to stop anyone else doing it, and the other is to get paid." (Apparently, getting screenwriting credit is unimportant?)



    • #3
      Being both a novelist and a screenwriter, as well as someone commissioned some years ago to adapt one of my novels for the screen, I can easily understand McEwan's point of view. One thing that may not be widely known here is that he's written for both British TV and feature films. So he's had experience on both sides of the screen.

      One thing I learned when doing my adaptation was to be true to the spirit of the novel but to reinvent it from the bottom up. Novels--especially those like McEwan's (and mine, to some degree)--are largely introspective. Often over 200+ pages very little exterior action takes place, but there can be huge shifts in the emotions and attitudes of the characters. This is impossible to capture successfully in a screenplay.

      It's hard for a novelist who's spent two years or more on a book to tear it down and really just start over, just to bring it to life cinematically. I know many novelists who really don't have the heart for it. I've been pondering for many years adapting one of my novels for the screen, and it's only recently come to me that I'm going to have to rewrite the entire through story to make it work. And one day I may do just that.


      • #4
        My current novel has way too many characters for the screen. To adapt I need to cut out entire chapters, entire story lines, and a lot of characters, and still retain the essence of the story.

        Not sure if or when I'll be up to that.