I absolutely LOVE it when people say that to me about something I have written. I’m glad that people like my stories enough to envision them that way. I, personally, have a hard time imagining them as movies because the characters are very real and personal to me but I certainly appreciate others thinking that.
I’m writing this because, well, I have a confession to make --- I am writing a screenplay. I was browsing one of my favorite software suppliers and came across this tricky little program called Hollywood Screenplays which says it guides you through the form one needs to follow to write a script. I bought it, installed it and then thought, “Rats, what should I write about?” So I got this bright idea to try to turn my short story "My Last Romance” from My Last Romance and other passions into a screenplay. It is one of my oldest pieces so maybe a little distance will let me be more objective and less attached to my personal vision of the characters. I’ve always said that of all the female characters I’ve ever created Ruby is my favorite. I think in some past life I must have been a chanteuse with a big band. I’ve always loved records by Peggy Lee and Jo Stafford and Rosemary Clooney and that whole Big Band Era nightclub lifestyle enthralls me. And I think it is a colorful setting for a cool movie.
So I started writing and you know what? This is HARD. When you lack description and can only rely on action direction and dialogue --- holy cow! Talk about coming face to face with your Inner Control Freak! I never realized I was that attached to my expositions. Plus, the thing I am having the hardest time with is writing believable dialogue. This is embarrassing because all my writing life I’ve been told by writing teachers and readers that they love my dialogue but when you are writing pure dialogue, with no other narrative, it all sounds boring or corny. I know the objective in scriptwriting is to make every bit of dialogue move the story along --- but doing that while being original and clever is a big challenge.
I’ve blogged before about my love of the commentary versions of movies that we find on a lot of today’s DVDs. I often watch the commentaries before I watch the movies. I LOVE hearing directors, actors, screenwriters, etc. talk about how they created what they created. I also love looking at the storyboards they create for their movies. In fact I used the concept of the storyboard when I made the video for The Old Mermaid’s Tale. I just sat down with a big yellow legal pad and drew. So now, as I try my hand at scriptwriting, I am trying to remember everything I have learned from commentaries I’ve watched. In college I took a course in theater scriptwriting but that was a long time ago and I seem to have forgotten most of it.
But here is the thing, if I can just stay focused and play the movie in my head it does seem to work. The first thing I realized was I have to reorder the events in the story for clarity. In the story everything is told from Ruby’s point of view and she moves back and forth in her memory with occasional forays into other ramblings. How much of that is usable in the script? I don’t know. I love Ruby’s “voice’ in that story and trying to emulate that voice in her dialogue is also challenging. There’s a lot to learn in this process.
I’ve never been able to imagine how writers could turn big novels into a 120 page script. I remember when I read Pat Conroy’s Prince of Tides and I was so in love with Luke, Tom’s brother, who was the character that the book took its title from. When I saw the (terrible, terrible) movie and discovered that Luke had been entirely eliminated and Tom was now the “Prince” I felt so betrayed but I’m starting to understand that better now. You streamline and streamline and streamline. It’s annoying.
Well, I’ll stay with this and see how it turns out. I have to get my money’s worth out of this software, don’t I? Don’t I?
Thanks for reading.