Adapting print to screen and vice versa.

Long time no chat, everyone, and happy to be back.

The regulars know that I was a regular here, talking about my epic sci-fi film, and they also know I've been all talk and no action for years. Now, I'm mostly talk and some writing, because I've decided to approach the project as a writer, as opposed to a director or actor. One avenue, which I am approaching, is to write a series of novels and manuals and adapt them to the screen.

I have begun the initial process of writing, but this problem keeps buzzing in the back of my mind. The story length of an episode seems to be far shorter than the length of a published novel, which is a problem for me. I think that adapting a novel to a movie can be easy, as witness the adaptation of The Godfather, for example, but doing it for an hour-length episode seems problematic.

I would like to talk to someone who is familiar with adapting books to screenplay and vice versa, and I would be willing to pay a reasonable fee. In the meantime, if anyone here can give their thoughts, I'd really appreciate it.

Thanks in advance for your help.
 

mlesemann

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
I've adapted several novels to screenplays. It certainly isn't "easy" but it is very doable. The ones that were most successful involved novelists who were willing to cut out parts that don't work well on screen, such as monologues and a character's thoughts.

A book can also be adapted into a series, such as the upcoming adaptation of "The Outsiders" and the current "The Handmaid's Tale." But I think that one book per episode (which I think is what you're referring to?) would be a push unless it's a novella.
 
I think that one book per episode (which I think is what you're referring to?) would be a push unless it's a novella.
Nice seeing you again. Yes, I am thinking of one book per episode, but a novel-length story seems to be too long to adapt to a TV episode. My goal is to write a series of novels which can then be adapted, but this is one of my sticking points.
 
This is purely a personal observation, but one based on several decades of moaning about "unsatisfactory" film adaptations of good books: most novels contain infinitely more "story" than any movie can ever convey. Once (or if) you accept that, then it's easier to move beyond whinging about inadequate screenplays.

Most of the films that I would consider faithful to the original text are based on short stories, not novels (e.g. James Joyce's The Dead); and most of the novels that I'd consider successfully adapted for the screen have been spread over several movies (e.g. Lord of the Rings).

When it comes to a series of (hour-long) episodes, I find that a single novel can translate successfully to one season, so in theory, a series of novels could be adapted to make several seasons. That said, I recently watched the Netflix version of the Shooter (mini-series, 6 episodes in season 1) and couldn't identify any significant "added value" compared to the movie adaptation.

Not sure if that helps you in any way, but hopefully it makes sense!
 
When it comes to a series of (hour-long) episodes, I find that a single novel can translate successfully to one season, so in theory, a series of novels could be adapted to make several seasons. That said, I recently watched the Netflix version of the Shooter (mini-series, 6 episodes in season 1) and couldn't identify any significant "added value" compared to the movie adaptation.
Thanks for your input. Can you give another example of a novel that was adapted to a season of episodes?
 
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Thanks for your input. Can you give another example of a novel that was adapted to a season of episodes?
Hmmm ... I don't ususally watch TV, so not really familiar with multi-part adaptations (just finished a free Netflix trial, which is how I came to see The Shooter).

Off the top of my head, the best that I can think of are the many adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes stories - but again, the original works were short stories, not full length novels.

The only other series that comes immediately to mind is Lost in Austen (four parts), which isn't exactly an adaptation of the novel Pride and Prejudice, but used it to great effect as a foundation for an alternative version of the story (similar to Shakespeare in Love)
 
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Isn't Game of Thrones an example of turning a novel into a season?
I believe it was. I'd like to know, briefly, how that was done, but I'm not much for sword and sorcery.

Another example are the Narnia Chronicles, though they were made into movies as opposed to a series.
 

mlesemann

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
You could probably figure out how it was done by carefully reading the novel - probably a couple of times - and then very slowly watching the series (maybe a few times), especially the first season or two. That would give you a good feel for what made it from the novel to the screen, and if/how they may have changed the order of things and cut segments that didn't work on the screen. Carefully and slowly comparing the two would probably be helpful.
 

pedramyz

Member
I've read the novels and watched the series. The series mix up the novels and they don't follow the book in an orderly fashion. each season is a combination of more than 1 book ( at least 2 ). and it doesn't chronicle the events like the books. Many deaths and other major events happen before some stuff while in the book it's vice versa.
 
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Thanks, everyone, and I'm getting good ideas. :)

I know a bit about writing, though I'm not a professional author. But I want to tell an epic science fiction story, to span generations - this is known as a space opera, taking after soap opera but in a science fiction context. My inspiration would be Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and EE "Lensman series" Smith, but I am also inspired by Star Trek and two films in the Star Wars canon.

How about this. I write a series of novels, which would be long enough to let me explore and tell the stories I want. They can then be adapted to a season or more if anyone ever picks them up. If no one does, at least I'm a published author, and I've told the stories I want to tell.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
Hi Mogul! Glad you're back.
I think that adapting a novel to a movie can be easy, as witness the adaptation of The Godfather, for example,
Adapting The Godfather wasn't as easy as you think it was. Adapting a
novel isn't easy at all. Witness the many terrible adaptations of many
novels.

I think you're getting the right idea about adapting a novel (or series
of novels) to series. You do not do one novel per episode. Take Michael
Connellly's "Bosh" series as an exampe. Amazon Prime now has a series
based on those books. The first season took elements of three books.
Season two took elements of two books. All of season three was based
on one book.

Write your novels. Tell the stories exactly as you see them; no interference
from producers or directors or directors. THEN concern yourself with the
adaptations.
 
Write your novels. Tell the stories exactly as you see them; no interference
from producers or directors or directors. THEN concern yourself with the
adaptations.
So I write the novels, forgetting for the moment about the adaptations, and then, if the right time ever comes, we'll figure something out. Is that right?
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff member
Admin
I would agree with worry about it later otherwise you may up with some kind on unintended hybrid of a writing style. You want the definitive novel and screenplay, so do one at a time and don't "prepare" your novels for such, imo.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
So I write the novels, forgetting for the moment about the adaptations, and then, if the right time ever comes, we'll figure something out. Is that right?
Exactly!

You said it already, "If no one does, at least I'm a published author, and I've told the stories I want to tell."

I know you would love to be a producer but you also have
a real passion for this story. One before the other.
 

WalterB

Member
Game of Thrones was adapted by the writer himself.
Eventually the TV show caught up with the books and now the last seasons are written without a novel to draw from.

Watch 'Adaptation' :P
 

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