One writing goal for this year: write for an hour a day. The other writing goal for 2021: write a screenplay.
How do you read a novel? Do you skim through the words to quickly get to the next point? Do you savor each word or phrase for its meaning? Me? I’m a visual sort of person. So when I read a book, I tend to play a movie in my head.
For the past few years, I’ve been a part of the m/m romance community on Goodreads. I’ve never been a big fan of romances, so my interest in the gay subsection of the genre surprised me. I discovered some excellent authors and some really great books. A few of those books have stayed at the forefront of my mind. They are so entertaining and visually descriptive, I think they’d make terrific movies.
One of my very favorite books is a science fiction “space opera” called Dark Space. (I am a big
nerd science fiction fan.) It’s written by Lisa Henry, an Australian author of gay fiction, who has become one of my favorite authors. I first read the book in 2018 and its sequel Darker Space became one of my “top 7 books of 2018.” (Dark Space would have made the top 7, but I had to limit my list to 7, and I liked the sequel even better.) In the summer of 2019, when I broke one leg and then fractured and dislocated the other—requiring hospitalization, surgery, and rehab—I re-read both books while in the hospital because I needed something to enjoy and savor.
The story is by turns funny, heartbreaking, and absolutely frightening. It’s entertaining on so many levels and told so vividly, it’s begging to be made into a movie. It won’t of course, because there’s little room (i.e., money) for gay romance in Hollywood. Hollywood might buy it if one of the main characters were female, but that would negate one of the main premises of the story.
So, I decided to write the screenplay myself. What do I know about writing a screenplay? Not a damn thing! Well, I know screenplays follow a very specific format The idea behind the format is that one page generally equals one minute of screen time. (So I immediately know my document needs to be 90-120 pages.) The format is so unusual and precise, it would be a bear to structure myself. I’d be spending all my time centering text, changing margins with every line, shifting to ALL CAPS, and more.
There are screenwriting programs available, but I’m afraid they might be too costly to indulge a mere hobby. Luckily, Word just so happened to have a screenplay template! (Actually, it has a couple of templates, but one is more instructional. The other is the actual format.) It’s not perfect, but certainly good enough to write a rough draft.
There are a couple of problems I have to deal with. The book is written in first-person, so there’s a lot of back-story to the character that’s difficult to show in the action. The narrator is young, angry, frightened, and hilarious. But he also cares deeply for his family. Secondly, he develops a telepathic link with another character. This character was taken prisoner by an alien race who nearly destroyed Earth. He returns after four years and may be a hero, a traitor, or a biological weapon. Interested yet?
Just last week I finished the first rough, rough, rough draft. It’s about 90 pages long, but I’ve skipped five key scenes because I wasn’t sure how to handle them. I also need to add some additional dialogue for other scenes. But I also need to delete some dialogue because it’s redundant. What reads well on paper doesn’t always translate to a decent conversation. It’s just one example of how context plays differently between the written word and its visual representation.
And in case you’re wondering. no, I am NOT way ahead of schedule. I’d say I’m right on track. There will be many, many drafts. That’s okay, because, so far, it’s been a great deal of fun to write, and I’m sure it will continue to be so.
More on the plot and even some casting ideas in upcoming posts. Maybe I’ll throw in some book reviews along the way.