1. hughesj
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    hughesj Member

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    Writing Films for Practice

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by hughesj, Oct 13, 2013.

    After listening to the 'Inside Creative Writing Podcast', I decided to try out one of the things that was suggested. Literally write out a film as if it were a novel.

    I just want your opinion on doing this and also some ways to approach the task
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I see some value to it, particularly if you are having difficulty coming up with a story to write.

    The challenge is to recognize the difference between the two media, and to capitalize of the strengths of the novel. For example, in a novel you can focus on nuances of a scene that may be difficult or impossible to give the right amount of emphasis through a camera lens. A character can recognize that a certain mannerism is a tell that his friend is not telling the entire truth, without revealing to the friend that he picked up on it. Cinema can convey that, but not as discretely. On the other hand, cinema can use timing and visuals to present details that translate poorly to written text, such as intricate battle sequences.

    So the lesson is to keep the essence of the story while not trying to reconstruct the film version scene by scene. You learn what does and does not work well in linear text, and how to render a story to make the best use of the medium.

    What it won't do is develop your creation of characters, settings, and conflicts. The exercise of imagination is limited to presnting the same information in a different way.
     
  3. hughesj
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    hughesj Member

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    Thanks for the reply Cog,

    I'm interested in seeing how this could help me so I am going to ask a few questions.

    My weakpoint in writing is dialogue. So, if I tried to write out a movie like 'Limitless' which has a lot of dialogue, would it help me improve? Maybe getting used to the way words are used and how people interact?

    I also thought about your point about the difference between books and films. I thought that maybe for an extra challenge I could add bits in and take bits out to make it more suited for a novel?
     
  4. Mathieu
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    Mathieu Member

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    This idea reminds me of Walter Dean Myers' "Monster", a novel which consists of diaries, stage directions and dialogs only. I literally had a movie playing in my head. When I try to write like this, I succeed in the dialogs but disregard the use of the camera etc.; which ruins the whole idea to express the characters' emotions just by "showing".
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    De nada.
    Maybe some, but not much if you only recreate existing dialogue. It may help you practice proper formatting, but because the characters are already established and dialogue already written, you won't get much practice in shaping a character with dialogue. Even adding to the dialogue of existing characters won't do much to improve your skills.

    However, if you add characters that aren't in the original screenplay, you could develop your dialogue skills that way.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the main problem i see with doing this is that it will lead you astray on how to write dialog in prose fiction...

    in the movies, people talk the way people do in real life, while in fiction, the dialog is somewhat 'pared down to essentials'... if it wasn't, the readers would very quickly become bored with all the hesitations and extraneous stuff that is okay in a movie only because it accompanies the action we see unfolding on the screen and the faces and body language of the actors...

    and it goes both ways... often the dialog in a movie--as in real life--is much sparer than it needs to be in written fiction, because what we see on the screen fills in the gaps...

    so i don't see that transcribing a movie and putting it in novel form will be helpful in improving your dialog writing... it can do more harm than good, imo...
     
  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    In my experience it is interesting but hard. I started a chapter altering the whole first scene and realised
    the following ones wouldn't work either. What worked visually wouldn't have worked on paper.
    My mom and I having a similar discussion of books to film after having read the same
    Joy Fielding book - Still Life. She thought it would make a great movie. I said, I doubted it as the mc is in a coma
    and you'd be staring at her unmoving body for over an hour. What works on paper doesn't always work for movies and vice versa.

    If you want to improve your dialogue skills I would focus more on your characters - less on advancing plot, or divulging
    information ( those things are important but not more important than whose divulging the information - you the author
    or the characters? ) It sounds like simple advice but actually it isn't - a lot of times the author is trying to get to the next scene
    reveal things and doesn't loosen the reigns on his characters. Think of it this way - you could put everyone you know family, relatives
    , friends in the same scenario - say they've just discovered a skeleton in their backyard while gardening. What they say and how they
    react will all depend entirely on the particular person - all their interests, fears, background, personality - not on the event.
    Let the dialogue shape the story and not the story shape the dialogue.
     
  8. Fearless_leader
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    novels do not equal movies.. i think there is just too much disparity between the two mediums to be transforming them as a means of practice.
     
  9. hughesj
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    hughesj Member

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    thanks for all the replies guys,

    I have started doing this and have written about the first 20 minutes of the movie. With the dialogue, I have noticed that I can't include pauses or ums and ahs. although this s a challenge, I feel I am doing quite well. It might not be helping my writing much but it is a lot of fun
     

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