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critique Help with an adaptation

Having been absent for quite some time, it's great to be back again. A few old monikers I recognize and many new talents!

I was hoping for some feedback on a screen adaptation of a novel I published a few years ago. Back story: A young woman in an abusive relationship suffers a severe injury. While in a coma, she creates another world in her mind in an attempt to survive and piece herself back together. She regresses to a younger version of herself in this world.

The "real" world, which is the framing story, is dark and harsh. The fantasy world is more childlike and whimsical. Think Alice in Wonderland. The problem I'm having is the dissonance between the two worlds. I fear the change in tone can be off-putting to the viewer. In the novel, I'm able to smooth over the transition. The target audience is adults who appreciate a fairy-tale. I guess I'm wondering if the tone I'm taking in the excerpted scenes (which is the main character's first introduction to her fantasy world) is too childlike and whimsical to appeal to an adult audience. Of course any other critique is welcomed and encouraged as well.

The excerpt is 10 pages long. Thanks all!


(let me know if there are any problems with the link)
I don't think it would be off-putting to your target audience - meaning adults who do like things that have a fairy tale feel.
It would be easier to get a good sense, though, if you included a little of the dark part. Is that (dark) how it opens? To me, the mix of the two amd the transition would be crucial.

Also, I think you can trim the dialogue in a number of places.

For example, on page 1, "I guess that really is me, then..." can cut to "That's me." or even just "Me!"

On page 2, I'd cut "I think I might be lost" as the sentences before and after that convey it well.

And I like "But I don't where here is" but would cut "I need to find my family."

There are others like that, but that's the idea - and just my opinion, of course.

Nicely done!
Hi, Mlesemann

Thanks so much for reading and the suggestions! Great idea to give an example of the transitions. I'm including a link to another excerpt (9 pages) of scenes where I move between the real world and the fantasy world. In the real world, I'm using her childhood diary as a technique to deliver back-story to her character. I fear transitioning like that may be too abrupt and, again, dissonant. Her character in the fantasy world (and in the real world at the current time where she lies unresponsive in a coma) cannot remember the diary scenes or her past at all.

To me - again, just my opinion - the real world part is too much exposition.

I understand what you're trying to do with the voice over etc. But I'd find it far more impactful if we "see" the discovery of the brother's dead body, hear the dad cursing whoever he's mad at/blames for his sickness (the US army? the government? North Vietnam? South Vietnam? China? All of the above?), etc.

I'd rather SEE Elizabeth get the diary with the ballerinas on it. Does the person simply not understand her? Or does (s)he want to share something beautiful in a bad time even though (s)he understands that it's not Elizabeth's style?
I read the first excerpt. Yes, very child-like. Actually reminded me of a book written by Frank Baum called The Wizard Of Oz.

Sorry, I don't have time to read the second except but I don't thing I have to. In my opinion, based on what you've said here and what I've read, you don't need to worry too much about how dissimilar the two worlds are. What is critical is how they will come together in act 3. Let the audience be confused about the relationship between the two worlds at first, then slowly guide them into understanding the connection. I assume the talking animals all serve a purpose. Perhaps they are splinters of her psyche. Maybe one or more of them is her abusive partner. I don't know but I'm sure they are not meaningless characters,, and there must be a reason she is reverting to her childhood during this terrible time in her adulthood. Perhaps there was a pivotal moment in her childhood that was left unresolved.

On a side note, I'd love to ready your book. Is it available?
mlesemann: Thanks for delving into the second excerpt. Yes, I'm aware of the expository heaviness it carries there. As usual, I'm up against the old bugaboo of trying to cram a lot (maybe too much) into the very limited space and time of a feature script. Novels are particularly resistant to adaptation. Feature films and short stories are good bedfellows, while novels usually need the king-size bed of a series.

I'm not sure I understand your questions about Elizabeth. Suffice it to say that it's very much a work-in-progress, and I'm trying to suss out the essence of the story without losing a coherent plot, which includes cutting characters (some of them fairly important) and scenes from the book's unlimited space to expand on back-story. Here's the blurb for the book:

"40 year-old Federico Garcia is an Afghan vet who has seen more than enough tragedy for one lifetime. His dreams and memories of his bloody past haunt him, and leave an empty space in his heart. When he meets Marie, a young woman trapped in an abusive marriage, they forge an unlikely friendship that blossoms into the promise of something more…

"Until Marie is mysteriously injured in a fall down the stairs, and finds herself in a coma.

"Federico begins his own investigation into the life of his beloved friend, and uncovers secrets about Marie’s personal life that she never wanted revealed. But his discoveries have only begun.

"Marie would like him to meet someone—the strange and magical Elizabeth —who has a story for Federico to hear.

"Magical, lyrically rendered, and sparkling with childlike wonder, “Gichimanidoo” is a captivating tale of magical realism and love against all odds."

As you notice, there is another main character named Federico. But I felt the real story here, the story I wanted to tell, was Marie and Elizabeth's story (Marie is actually Elizabeth as a grown-up), so I'm writing him out of the script and he lies on the cutting room floor, so to speak.

Blumkin, hola. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, it's available on Amazon. I'd be honored to have you read it!

Mlesemann: Ha! Yes, it's confusing because the script I'm writing tells an adapted story, not exactly the same story as the book. Federico is in the book, not the script. Anyway, thanks again for your feedback!
First, I wouldn't worry about an audience not comprehending the two worlds. We, as an audience, are used to this kind of stuff. Simple conventions, like a slow disolve, make the transition between the two transparent.

And, I'm an amateur, a would-be, but I always try to, wherever I can, remove words, and this seems a little, to me, wordy. The idea is not to not say what you want, but rather, to make every word count. I try to remember this rule, from Elements of Style:

Omit needless words. Omit needless words.

For example, in your opening, "Blackness and silence slowly evaporates into light" might be accomplished with this: FADE IN

And, "grass, oak and maple trees, wild flowers" are implicit in "woodland meadow." Anyway, If I were to do an edit, it would be something like this:



A woodland meadow. A burbling brook. ELIZABETH lies in the grass--14, dark-completed, her impish nose and mahogany eyes partially obscured in a tangle of auburn curls. She rises, brushes hair from her face, and looks around, puzzled.


Elizabeth kneels by the brook. A school of minnows scatter. She looks at her reflection.

I guess it's me.
(sorry, can't format that right)

Anyway. Just spitballing. And I like your story a lot. And please take me with a grain of salt. We all develop our own styles, and . . . what do I know. :)


rereading, I think my cut is a little extreme. Novelists may be inclined to expand, to describe, as novelists can and should. My impulse, especially in a script format, is to do the opposite. But, honestly, I don't know. Anyway. Carry on. I have great admiration for anyone who has completed and published a book.
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If it's for a film to produce, the first scene heading
Isn't giving anything to the other departments.
I feel its too long explanation of the meerkat. We all know how a normal meerkat looks like. You just need to describe specific details if any.
I got advice from a friend that an action paragraph shouldn't exceed 4 lines. If so, break into small chunks (properly). Same goes for dialogs too. On the sets, its quite difficult to take long dialogs in less shots.