Friday, May 25, 2012


I've frequently been asked what the difference was in writing a script as opposed to writing a novel.
It’s been said, for good reason, that the play is an actor’s medium, television a producer’s medium, film a director’s medium, and the novel a writer’s medium. With the exception of one’s editor, the author of a novel pretty much has free reign and the final say in how he or she wishes to tell a story.
            Writing for film and television is different than writing a novel or a play. In a play, the story is essentially revealed through the characters’ dialogue. Even under the guidance of a director, it is the actor who ultimately conveys the essence of the play. (This was true, incidentally, in old-time radio as well).
            In a novel, the author can rely on a combination of dialogue and exposition to lay out the story. A visual medium, however, is just that. Visual.  Here, the old axiom “show don’t tell” strictly applies.
            For example, in a novel, a young, resolute ballerina might say, “I realize this is hard work, but I’m determined to make dancing my life’s work no matter what it takes.” On film, she’d say nothing.
Instead, we’d see her removing her wrinkled, waitress uniform and change into a leotard. She’d twist her long pony tail into a bun before sitting down and removing her shoes. We, the audience, would watch her slip worn ballet slippers over feet that are bruised and discolored. She’d walk into the dance studio, take a deep breath, and begin a strenuous dance routine. Her determination to dance despite all obstacles would be revealed without so much as a line of dialog.
            A script can go on for pages without dialogue. To some writers, this might seem easy. Personally, I find it challenging. My strength is in writing dialogue (I would love to have been a writer on one of those old radio shows). I preferred script writing for the soaps as opposed to writing story breakdown. I also find it more natural for me, in writing a mystery, to include a lot of dialogue in addition to exposition.
            Writing a screenplay is a trickier proposition for me. I find that I have to constantly remind myself to convey a scene with as little dialogue as possible.  I would probably have an easier time adapting a screenplay to a novel than I would adapting a novel into a screenplay. 
            Another thing to keep in mind is that to a film director, a screenplay is often no more than a blueprint. He (or she) will interpret the story as he sees fit even if that means completely overhauling the script. In contrast to a novel, a screenplay or a teleplay is usually a collaborative effort.
            At the end of the day, whether one is writing a play, a novel, or a screenplay, it is imperative to keep in mind the particular medium for which one is writing.

Have a great weekend and thanks for traveling along RHODES LESS TRAVELED,


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