Writing the Screenplay: Losing Narrative

My newest challenge has been to turn my short story “Clive” into a screenplay. And the challenge quickly turned into a true labour of love that I’m thoroughly enjoying.

For those who have experience with screenplays, you already know that they contain little in the way of narrative. So as an author who is known for descriptive, lyrical detail, I found that little was left after stripping my story to the bare bones until all that remained were the action and dialogue.

I was reminded of that old saying about tearing something down before you can build it back up again.

For example, here’s the opening to the original story which describes the setting:

Scanlon Creek summers were notoriously humid, with air that clung to you like a moist, thick overcoat. People crowded beach chairs and picnic baskets into aging SUVs to head to the shores of Shadow Lake for some relief from the oppressive weather. For those that remained behind, tempers were always a few yards shorter than usual. One wrong glance could cause a normally placid individual to rip right into you. 

And here’s the above translated into a screenplay:

“Act I, Scene I – OUTSIDE – DAY – ESTABLISHING SHOT OF HOUSES

Long shot of the fronts of Clive’s and Simard’s houses.

RADIO ANNOUNCER 1

It’s a scorcher again here in Scanlon Creek…”

Instead of descriptive narrative, I’m employing a not-so-new trick of using background dialogue to set the scene. While the radio announcer speaks, we use establishing shots to introduce the setting through colours, textures, and actions.

This is also where the relationship between the director and the writer becomes especially important. Ideally, the director should be intimately familiar with the narrative version as well, to ensure that both the director and writer share the same visual adaptation of each scene and how the actors are to react to the various settings.

And this is just for the beginning of a short story! There are many more aspects to converting prose to screenplay and I’m loving every one of them.

So much so, that once this project is complete, another dream would be to turn my full-size novels Raincloud and The Orphans of the Creek into screenplays as well.

All in good time.

See you out there!

If you’re a writer, write. And if you’re a reader, keep reading. We need you!

Author Richard S. Todd

Author Richard S. Todd

Richard Todd is an author, blogger, and Social Media guy. Plus a few other things that get lost in the clutter. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com.

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