I’ve completed the first step in adapting my screenplay, In the Mouth of the Lion, to novel format. I took the simplest approach: converting the script into a text file, then removing sluglines, and so forth. In essence, I’m using the screenplay as an outline.
But why am I doing this? The screenplay has a highly problematic structure. (see Reasons Scripts Don’t Fly.) It’s basically a story within a story within a story, with extensive “pipe” at the front and back ends. This structure doesn’t go away in the novel, but it is more tolerable for a reader than a viewer.
Deconstructing a screenplay in this manner is a complex process, not as easy as I imagined. Film dialogue doesn’t work well in a novel. It’s far too sparse, relying on visual clues to complete the spoken thought. Still, dialogue is the easiest part. The descriptives are usually inadequate, again because the film relies on visuals.
The scariest thing is how slowly the novel text builds as the script is reformatted. The script text file consisted of about 20,000 words and 128 pages (118 in Final Draft.) After a complete redo, the novel text file is only 28,600 words, 80 pages long. This is less than half of my expected novel length. I have a long, long, long, long, long, long way to go.
I’ve been doing a little expanding for clarity as I reformat. I’ll probably do more as I rewrite. But I won’t be rewriting from page one, onward; I’ll be reworking the foundations of the book: theme, story, and character. I may add other characters or expand on minor ones. I may add B and C-line plots. A novel has lots of room for theme portrayal via subplots.
But probably the fastest way to expand the book to novel-length is to add entire chapters. The challenges will be to incorporate flashbacks clearly but seamlessly, and to make new chapters and subplots complete stories in themselves, with solid connections to the main plot thread.