Writing Book vs. Film (Writing Visually vs. Cinematically)November 11th, 2015
By Danny Manus
If you’ve been paying attention lately, you surely noticed that the hottest thing selling in Hollywood…is books! And with the success of films like Gone Girl, Hunger Games and yes, even 50 Shades of Gray, more and more book writers are making the jump and adapting their own material or trying to get their books adapted to film.
And while the goal in both mediums is to create the best story and tell it in the most compelling way, there are some major differences between writing for book and film.
Whether writing book or film, you always want to think and write visually. As storytellers, we are always picturing whatever we’re putting on paper. But writing visually is not the same thing as writing cinematically.
Writing visually is making sure something is happening in the scene (or chapter). Writing cinematically is about making sure something is happening behind the scene. Writing visually in a book is about describing the scene – the location, the wardrobe, the way the moonlight shines in the effervescent blue sparkles of your character’s eyes. In film, it’s about expressing what’s happening in the scene in the fewest amount of words. It’s not about feelings or thoughts – it’s about actions and word choice.
With books, it’s often about writing a story that everyone can relate to and say, “I’ve been through that too, so I understand. This is like a book about my life.” It’s about creating a community of people who relate to what is happening in your story in some way.
In film, it’s about creating a story that no one else has gone through and then finding ways to make it relatable through your themes, characters and dilemmas. The threshold is higher with stories meant for the big screen, because people go to the movies to escape – not to commiserate. Ten thousand books a year can be published about fighting cancer. You know how many movies about cancer there can be in any given year? One.
Writing cinematically is about having moments. Yes, certain structural moments that keep a reader and audience engaged. But also, visual, impactful, shocking, powerful moments that people will be talking about or quoting later. It’s about bringing out the hook of your story and exploiting it to its maximum dramatic (or comedic or horrific) purpose. It’s about focusing your project down to its most important moments and details that create a world and tell a story and a character arc without feeling novelistic.
If you’re interested in adapting your book to a screenplay, this is how you need to think. You take your basic concept, your world, probably your main character, and the 5-10 major moments that define and exploit your hook and concept in your book – and you leave the rest behind. Sure, there are some lines of dialogue and description that will carry over. But adapting from a book is basically like writing an original screenplay inspired by a true story. Except it’s inspired by the book it’s based on.
And the great part about writing books is that even if no one else wants to publish it, you can still do it yourself and get your voice out there for the world to read. There’s always a pay off! That’s something you can’t say about a screenplay.
But to that end…No BullScript is here to help! After working with a number of book writers, speaking at numerous book conferences, and forging great relationships with publishers, editors and book agents around the country, I am thrilled to announce that No BullScript is now offering a service specifically for BOOK WRITERS!
If you have written a manuscript and want to know if your story and writing is strong enough to grab a publisher or agent’s attention, or if you’re thinking about adapting your book to a screenplay and want to go through how and if it’s worthwhile to do so – we can help with that! I will read your book and we will go through all my notes, chapter by chapter, over the phone (or Skype) to make sure your book is as strong as it can be. And if it is, I will help you get it into the right hands. *I want to make it clear, I’m not EDITING books. But if you are unsure about your story, characters, flow, overall writing, plot, or its ability to become a feature film, I am here to help! Please check out my services page for the NEW Manuscript/Adaptation Notes Service. And I hope to work with you all soon!