Thursday, September 13, 2018

Slow days

Growing up, I remember autumn being the “slow season,” the time of fresh starts and of new beginnings. Spring may universally be considered the season of renewal, but for me –– as I begin my 26th year of high school –– fall annually launches a new school year.

In my writing life, fall is a time to rev up and start again, the time I slowly descend the stairway into a new project. Nine months is typically the time it takes me to write a book, so accompanying the school year with a new writing project makes sense. This is where I am this year: I just finished a novel, and as my agent prepares her pitch, I’m back to work on a new project, a screenplay based on said book.

I say “based on” because the script will be different from the original text, a concept that in itself fascinates me and makes the writing of it worth my time. I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating, taking notes, and evaluating the plot. Compression is the key. What goes? What stays? What’s important? What’s really important? Tough choices.

And there’s no way around it. The story will indeed change. Several secondary characters in the book have larger roles in the script. One consideration in this decision is the audience. Right or wrong, I feel like the audience for the film will relate to the cast of teenagers in the book more than the reader will, so those characters will have larger roles when I condense the storyline. I see the film viewers as younger than the novel readers. Right? Wrong? I don’t know. But I teach and live with teenagers, and I know they experience narrative differently than I did at that age. Binge watching a show (catching up on Stranger Things, say, by watching a season in a weekend) is their reality. Sadly, I don’t see teens carrying books, but they are always plugged in, viewing a show or listening to something. The original storyline in my novel features teenagers, through the eyes of a 40-something, first-person narrator. But in the script, there is no narrator, so I’ll let the teens tell their own story.

I’m also enjoying reading scripts as I embark on this project. American Beauty and Devil in a Blue Dress are the first two I’ve read. I will read more. But there’s no need to rush. The journey is just beginning. After all, it’s only autumn.

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