Screenwriting: Take Three


Reading a bad script feels like a death sentence with a dull guillotine. What is the chief reason for this problem? The lack of meaningful antagonism. Identifying the story’s key antagonizing principle is of chief concern to a screenwriter adapting a novel into a script. As stated in my first article, novels present an unparalleled insight into a character’s mind and thoughts, while movies better accentuate the character’s dilemma with and through his or her relation to the outer world. This poses an immediate question of reconciliation. How do you transfer what is thought into what is seen? By asking the right question, we can begin the process of visualizing the mind.  
How many times have you watched a movie adaptation and thought to yourself, “That’s not what the book was about!” In some cases, this is due to changes made in the viewpoint from the novel to the screenplay. A screenwriter may take a visual cue from one character’s thought and extrapolate that into the setting for a scene. But many times this fails because the screenwriter has not identified the book’s central antagonist and interwoven the scene into that message. It feels like a sheaf of paper stapled onto an already covered telephone pole.
Many times, a book may contain multiple storylines, or a collection of smaller ones. One such example is Big Fish, written by author Daniel Wallace, which was adapted into a screenplay by writer John August. The book is a collection of Southern tales, but August embodies the stories as the history of a single character, then builds out into his relationships with others and the world. Let’s take a look at how the writer blends the two worlds in the opening pages of his script:

Read the entire article in the Junle/July double issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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