THURSDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:

ADAPTATION


One of my assignments a couple of years back was adapting a New York Times best selling novel from a big name author for a producer at MGM. .. And I didn't even have a twin brother named Donald to help me. Though I was well paid, I don't think the film is ever going to be made... welcome to studio films! So that all of that work figuring out how to adapt the novel doesn't go to waste, I thought I'd write a tip about it.

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1) Find the central conflict. Story is conflict - so the first thing you have to do is figure out exactly what that conflict is. I read this novel a few times until I figured out what the main conflict was. This can be tricky, because books are filled with all kinds of conflicts and subplots. What we are looking for is the MAIN conflict - the conflict that makes all of the other conflicts possible. Novels can be scattershot in their plotting and you may end up with more than one main plot - if so, it's time to make a choice. What is the story you want to tell? What is the story that is most compelling?

The novel I was adapting dealt with a lawyer hired by a woman accused of murdering her husband - and the big courtroom trial that follows. One main conflict... but lots of subplots. And what actually was the main conflict? That required some analysis. Though the DA seemed like the guy who was creating the conflict, he was really just doing his job. The real conflict came from the woman - all of the evidence pointed to her as guilty. The central conflict of the story was - Did she murder her husband or not? That's the seed of conflict the entire story grows from. If she's not guilty - the lawyer hero needs to make sure she isn't convicted... but what if she's guilty? Should the lawyer hero fight to set her free? Often the central conflict will be a question that the story itself will be answering, other times it's a major decision that the protagonist will have to make in their life. Really dig into the book and figure out what that central conflict is - the biggest mistake you can make in an adaptation is using a minor conflict as the spine of your adaptation, or using a bundle of related conflicts instead of digging in to find the central conflict at the source of their relationship. One story = one conflict, so finding the central conflict of the novel is critical.

2) Emotional stakes. Adding to the central conflict of the novel is an emotional component - the lawyer hero becomes romantically involved with the woman over the course of the trial. Now it's the woman he's sleeping with who may or may not have murdered her husband in cold blood. Will he be next? Should he trust her when she says she's innocent... or be suspicious of everything she says? This gives the protagonist EMOTIONAL STAKES in the outcome of the trial, which creates drama. Once you've found the central conflict, the next thing to look for is how that conflict emotionally involves the protagonist. What are the emotional stakes? This is the element that will make the audience care about your protagonist and hope he resolves the problem (but fear that it may all blow up in his face). It should grow right out of the central conflict, rather than be something pasted on from the outside.

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3) Focusing the story. Once you've found that central conflict - that's the focus of the story. Everything else is trash. Like most big best selling novels, this one was filled with subplots. There was a great subplot about the dead husband's first wife who contested the will, but it had nothing to do with whether the current wife was guilty or not, so I threw it away. All of the subplots ended up in the trash - except those which were directly related to that central conflict. The central conflict is the spine of your adaptation, and if a subplot isn't attached to that spine it's just going to get in the way. A novel has hundreds of pages to tell the story - you have 110 pages. You have to cut anything that has nothing to do with that central conflict!

4) Your menu of scenes. I went through the book and wrote down every scene that had to do with that central conflict... and every place where characters THOUGHT about the central conflict. Some of those thinking scenes had to be dramatized into physical conflict scenes. On film we can't know what a character thinks or feels - we only know what they DO and SAY. The book was filled with places where the lawyer hero wondered if she was guilty... and I had to create scenes that ILLUSTRATED this - scenes where the actions of the characters would make the AUDIENCE wonder if she was guilty. A suspicion in the mind of the protagonist isn't dramatic - but a scene where he confronts the woman he's sleeping with and asks her about a piece of evidence is going to be a good, meaty scene. Because I wanted THE AUDIENCE to share the protagonist's suspicions, I made sure her explanations made sense... but sounded a little contrived. In the novel the reader never knew if she was guilty or not, and I wanted to replicate that in the script. Suspicious thoughts had to be turned into actions. Everything internal had to be externalized and dramatized. This created scenes that were not in the novel, but seemed as if they were.

5) Your menu of characters. Characters were "repurposed" so that they focused on the central conflict. In the book, the lawyer hero met an ex-cop who helped him in a scene - but was mostly a sounding board for the lawyer's theories. I made this character the chief investigator for the lawyer so that he would be more actively involved in the story and created a backstory friendship between the two so that I could explore the theme I discovered in that central conflict... and have our hero lawyer LIE to the investigator in order to get important information. This created a cool dramatic scene between the two where their conversation could echo what our hero COULDN'T say to his client about trust and betrayal. A bunch of characters in the novel ended up "repurposed" to serve that central conflict. Any characters who didn't have anything to do with the central conflict ended up on the cutting room floor. I didn't have time for them. For a good example of "repurposing" characters, read Elmore Leonard's GET SHORTY and OUT OF SIGHT then see the adaptations by Scott Frank. Scott did an amazing job of taking interesting characters on the fringes of the story and giving them a role to play in the main story.

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6) Creating characters and combining characters. You know how we had to dramatize the thoughts of characters so that we could see them? Sometimes you have to do the same thing with characters. In the novel OUT OF SIGHT the Albert Brooks character was someone the protagonist remembered from prison... but on screen he couldn't just be a memory, he had to be flesh and blood. So Scott "created" the character for the script. In the novel I was adapting another lawyer from the protagonist's office did some investigating and uncovered some witnesses. The protagonist never met those witnesses in the novel, but he gets to track them down and question them in the script. You may also end up combining characters who serve the same story purpose into a single character - if the protagonist has two best friends in the novel, he may only end up with one in the script. This sort of thing was done well in GET SHORTY in order to better focus the story. In the best seller there were a dozen reporters who kept trying to ambush the lawyer and his client, I combined them all into a couple of really aggressive reporters - a Mike Wallace type TV reporter and a very friendly reporter for a major newspaper who tries to gain the confidence of the accused wife. These two were composites of the dozen reporters in the novel, taking the most interesting aspects of each character and their most interesting scenes.

7) First hand scenes. In the book the lawyer could call on people to give him information - in the script the lawyer had to go out and get that information himself. The protagonist has to be ACTIVELY working to resolve the conflict. The protagonist has to get his hands dirty. In the novel the lawyer had a guy in his office doing much of the leg work, plus the ex-cop out there poking around. Those characters made the protagonist passive. There were several scenes where the protagonist was briefed about the investigation - just a big exposition dump! I ended up eliminating the guy in the office and had the protagonist go out and uncover his own information. He became more involved in the case, more active, and because these witnesses were often trying to hide the truth - it created some big dramatic scenes. Any time you can change exposition into action, you're improving the script. Any scene where someone TELLS someone what happened needs to be changed into a scene where we SEE what happened. Dramatize!

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8) Visualize. Scenes that were not visual had to either be made visual... or dropped. Either the character could be seen performing some action - or those scenes couldn't work. Much of the courtroom drama from the book ended up being pre-trial investigation... because that is more visual. Only the big trial moments ended up in the script. Hey, we love that Perry Mason stuff... but all of the boring courtroom stuff had to be re-created in a form that was more dramatic and active. The protagonist out there uncovering clues is more interesting than people sitting in a court room talking about it.

9) Focus. One of the things that happened in adapting this book - the plot which was scattershot in the novel ended up being very focused in the script. A weak plot twist became much stronger because it was in a focused (and more dramatic) scene. Often the order of scenes was changed from book to script to make it more dramatic... and it ended up making more sense, too.

The main thing to do is focus on the story that central conflict where the physical conflict and emotional conflict intersect. That's the spine of your story. Every character, scene, line of dialogue, bit of action, and subplot will be attached to that spine. Anything that isn't part of the central conflict should end up in the wastebasket. That's how you turn a big fat New York Times Best selling thriller into a 110 page script... that never gets made.

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LEARN SUSPENSE FROM THE MASTER!

*** HITCHCOCK: MASTERING SUSPENSE *** - For Kindle!

Alfred Hitchcock, who directed 52 movies, was known as the *Master Of Suspense*; but what exactly is suspense and how can *we* master it? How does suspense work? How can *we* create “Hitchcockian” suspense scenes in our screenplays, novels, stories and films?

This book uses seventeen of Hitchcock’s films to show the difference between suspense and surprise, how to use “focus objects” to create suspense, the 20 iconic suspense scenes and situations, how plot twists work, using secrets for suspense, how to use Dread (the cousin of suspense) in horror stories, and dozens of other amazing storytelling lessons. From classics like “Strangers On A Train” and “The Birds” and “Vertigo” and “To Catch A Thief” to older films from the British period like “The 39 Steps” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” to his hits from the silent era like “The Lodger” (about Jack The Ripper), we’ll look at all of the techniques to create suspense!

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*** THE BOURNE MOVIES

All five "Bourne" movies (including "Legacy" and it's potential sequels) - what are the techniques used to keep the characters and scenes exciting and involving? Reinventing the thriller genre... or following the "formula"? Five films - each with an interesting experiment! A detailed analysis of each of the films, the way these thrillers work... as well as a complete list of box office and critical statistics for each film. This book is great for writers, directors, and just fans of the series.

$3.99 - and no postage!


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*** THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING *** - For Kindle!

*** THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING *** - For Nook!

Why pay $510 for a used version of the 240 page 2000 version that used to retail for $21.95? (check it out!) when you can get the NEW EXPANDED VERSION - over 500 pages - for just $9.99? New chapters, New examples, New techniques!

"SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING is the best book on the practical nuts-and-bolts mechanics of writing a screenplay I've ever read." - Ted Elliott, co-writer of MASK OF ZORRO, SHREK, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN and the sequels (with Terry Rossio). (ie; 4 of the top 20 Box Office Hits Of ALL TIME.)

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BEST SUPPORTING CHARACTERS!

*** SUPPORTING CHARACTER SECRETS *** - For Kindle! (Exclusive)


Expanded version with more techniques to flesh out your Supporting Characters and make them individuals. Using the hit movie BRIDESMAIDS as well as other comedies like THE HANGOVER and TED and HIGH FIDELITY and 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and many other examples we look at ways to make your Supporting Characters come alive on the page. Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is around 170 pages!

$4.99 - and no postage!


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Over 400 Pages!

*** BREAKING IN BLUE BOOK *** - For Kindle!


Should really be called the BUSINESS BLUE BOOK because it covers almost everything you will need to know for your screenwriting career: from thinking like a producer and learning to speak their language, to query letters and finding a manager or agent, to making connections (at home and in Hollywood) and networking, to the different kinds of meetings you are will have at Studios, to the difference between a producer and a studio, to landing an assignment at that meeting and what is required of you when you are working under contract, to contracts and options and lawyers and... when to run from a deal! Information you can use *now* to move your career forward! It's all here in the Biggest Blue Book yet!

Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 400 pages!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!




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Speaking of Hitchcock...

*** HITCHCOCK: EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR! *** - For Kindle!

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Contained Thrillers like "Buried"? Serial Protagonists like "Place Beyond The Pines"? Multiple Connecting Stories like "Pulp Fiction"? Same Story Multiple Times like "Run, Lola, Run"? HITCHCOCK DID IT FIRST!

This book focuses on 18 of Hitchcock's 53 films with wild cinema and story experiments which paved the way for modern films. Almost one hundred different experiments that you may think are recent cinema or story inventions... but some date back to Hitchcock's *silent* films! We'll examine these experiments and how they work. Great for film makers, screenwriters, film fans, producers and directors.

Only $5.99 - and no postage!


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Over 240 pages!

*** THE TERMINATOR MOVIES *** - For Kindle!


He's back! The release of "Terminator: Genisys" (now on BluRay) is set to begin a new trilogy in the Terminator story... 31 years after the first film was released. What draws us to these films about a cybernetic organism from the future sent back in time? Why is there a new proposed trilogy every few years? This book looks at all five Terminator movies from a story standpoint - what makes them work (or not)? What are the techniques used to keep the characters and scenes exciting and involving? How about those secret story details you may not have noticed? Containing a detailed analysis of each of the five films so far, this book delves into the way these stories work... as well as a complete list of box office and critical statistics for each film. This book is great for writers, directors, and just fans of the series.

Only $3.99 - and no postage!


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HOW MANY SCENES?

*** SCENE SECRETS *** - For Kindle!

***

What is a scene and how many you will need? The difference between scenes and sluglines. Put your scenes on trial for their lives! Using "Jaws" we'll look at beats within a scene. Scene DNA. Creating set pieces and high concept scenes. A famous director talks about creating memorable scenes. 12 ways to create new scenes. Creating unexpected scenes. Use dramatic tension to supercharge your scenes. Plants and payoffs in scenes. Plus transitions and buttons and the all important "flow"... and more! Over 65,000 words! Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is around 210 pages!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!


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HOW STORY WORKS!

*** STORY: WELL TOLD *** - For Kindle!


This book takes you step-by-step through the construction of a story... and how to tell a story well, why Story always starts with character... but ISN'T character, Breaking Your Story, Irony, Planting Information, Evolving Story, Leaving No Dramatic Stone Unturned, The Three Greek Unities, The Importance Of Stakes, The Thematic Method, and how to create personal stories with blockbuster potential. Ready to tell a story? Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 85,000 words - 251 pages!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!


MY BLOG!

Underpants T shirt SCRIPT SECRETS STORE
Start The Day The Coffee Way!



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START STRONG!

*** HOOK 'EM IN TEN *** - For Kindle!


Your story doesn't get a second chance to make a great first impression, and this book shows you a bunch of techniques on how to do that. From the 12 Basic Ways To Begin Your Story, to the 3 Stars Of Your First Scene (at least one must be present) to World Building, Title Crawls, Backstory, Starting Late, Teasers and Pre Title Sequences, Establishing Theme & Motifs (using GODFATHER PART 2), Five Critical Elements, Setting Up The Rest Of The Story (with GODFATHER), and much more! With hundreds of examples ranging from Oscar winners to classic films like CASABLANCA to some of my produced films (because I know exactly why I wrote the scripts that way). Biggest Blue Book yet! Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 100,000 words - 312 pages!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!


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STUCK IN THE MIDDLE?

*** ACT TWO SECRETS *** - For Kindle!


Expanded version with more techniques to help you through the desert of Act Two! Subjects Include: What Is Act Two? Inside Moves, The 2 Ps: Purpose & Pacing, The 4Ds: Dilemma, Denial, Drama and Decision, Momentum, the Two Act Twos, Subplot Prisms, Deadlines, Drive, Levels Of Conflict, Escalation, When Act Two Begins and When Act Two Ends, Scene Order, Bite Sized Pieces, Common Act Two Issues, Plot Devices For Act Two, and dozens of others. Over 67,000 words (that's well over 200 pages) of tools and techniques to get you through the desert of Act Two alive! Print version was 48 pages, Kindle version is over 208 pages!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!


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GOT IDEAS?

*** YOUR IDEA MACHINE *** - For Kindle!

*** YOUR IDEA MACHINE *** - For Nook!

Expanded version with more ways to find great ideas! Your screenplay is going to begin with an idea. There are good ideas and bad ideas and commercial ideas and personal ideas. But where do you find ideas in the first place? This handbook explores different methods for finding or generating ideas, and combining those ideas into concepts that sell. The Idea Bank, Fifteen Places To Find Ideas, Good Ideas And Bad Ideas, Ideas From Locations And Elements, Keeping Track Of Your Ideas, Idea Theft - What Can You Do? Weird Ways To Connect Ideas, Combing Ideas To Create Concepts, High Concepts - What Are They? Creating The Killer Concept, Substitution - Lion Tamers & Hitmen, Creating Blockbuster Concepts, Magnification And The Matrix, Conflict Within Concept, Concepts With Visual Conflict, Avoiding Episodic Concepts, much more! Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 175 pages!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!


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CHARACTERS ARE STORY!

*** CREATING STRONG PROTAGONISTS *** - For Kindle!

*** CREATING STRONG PROTAGONISTS *** - For Nook!

Expanded version with more ways to create interesting protagonists! A step-by-step guide to creating "take charge" protagonists. Screenplays are about characters in conflict... characters in emotional turmoil... Strong three dimensional protagonists who can find solutions to their problems in 110 pages. But how do you create characters like this? How do you turn words into flesh and blood? Character issues, Knowing Who Is The Boss, Tapping into YOUR fears, The Naked Character, Pulp Friction, Man With A Plan, Character Arcs, Avoiding Cliche People, Deep Characterization, Problem Protagonists, 12 Ways To Create Likable Protagonists (even if they are criminals), Active vs. Reactive, The Third Dimension In Character, Relationships, Ensemble Scripts, and much, much more. Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is once again around 205 pages!

SALE: Only $2.99 - and no postage!


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WRITE PICTURES!

*** VISUAL STORYTELLING *** - For Kindle! (exclusive)


Show Don't Tell - but *how* do you do that? Here are techniques to tell stories visually! Using Oscar Winning Films and Oscar Nominated Films as our primary examples: from the first Best Picture Winner "Sunrise" (1927) to the Oscar Nominated "The Artist" (which takes place in 1927) with stops along the way Pixar's "Up" and Best Original Screenplay Winner "Breaking Away" (a small indie style drama - told visually) as well as "Witness" and other Oscar Winners as examples... plus RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 200 pages!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!


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41 NEW TECHNIQUES!

*** DIALOGUE SECRETS *** - For Kindle!

*** DIALOGUE SECRETS *** - For Nook!

Expanded version with more ways to create interesting protagonists! How to remove bad dialogue (and what *is* bad dialogue), First Hand Dialogue, Awful Exposition, Realism, 41 Professional Dialogue Techniques you can use *today*, Subtext, Subtitles, Humor, Sizzling Banter, *Anti-Dialogue*, Speeches, and more. Tools you can use to make your dialogue sizzle! Special sections that use dialogue examples from movies as diverse as "Bringing Up Baby", "Psycho", "Double Indemnity", "Notorious", the Oscar nominated "You Can Count On Me", "His Girl Friday", and many more! Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 160 pages!

Only $4.99 - and no postage!


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BRAND NEW!

*** VINTAGE #1: HOW TO WRITE PHOTOPLAYS *** - For Kindle!

***

Screenwriting books have been around as long as films have. This series reprints vintage screenwriting books with a new introduction and history, plus new articles which look at how these lessons from almost 100 years ago apply to today’s screenplays. Anita Loos book is filled with information which still applies. In addition to the full text of the original book, you get the full screenplay to Miss Loos' hit THE LOVE EXPERT, plus several new articles on the time period and women in Hollywood.

Only $2.99 - and no postage!




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FINAL DRAFT SOFTWARE

Use your creative energy to focus on the content; let Final Draft take care of the style. Final Draft is the number-one selling application specifically designed for writing movie scripts, television episodics and stage plays. Its ease-of-use and time-saving features have attracted writers for almost two decades positioning Final Draft as the Professional Screenwriters Choice. Final Draft power users include Academy, Emmy and BAFTA award winning writers like Oliver Stone, Tom Hanks, Alan Ball, J.J. Abrams, James Cameron and more. * * * Buy It!

copyright 2017 by William C. Martell


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SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING

bluebook IT'S BACK! SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING
Over 460 pages packed with tips and techniques. How to write a plot twist, the four kinds of suspense (and how to create it), reversals, ten ways to invent new action scenes, secrets and lies, creating the ultimate villain, five kinds of love interests, MORE! CLICK HERE!

E BOOKS PAGE

bluebook E BOOKS: New Blue Books and Novelettes!
I am expanding all of the Blue Books from around 44 pages of text to around 200 pages! Some are over 250 pages! See what is availabale and what is coming soon!Also, I've been writing Novelletes and there will soon be novels.
E BOOKS: BLUE BOOKS & NOVELLETES

ONLINE CLASSES
Visual Class
CLASSES ON CD

Class CDs CLASSES ON CD! Take a class on CD! GUERRILLA MARKETING - NO AGENT? NO PROBLEM! and WRITING THRILLERS (2 CDs). Full length classes on CD. Now Available: IDEAS & CREATIVITY, WRITING HORROR, WRITING INDIE FILMS, more!
Take classes on CD!

MY OTHER SITES

B MOVIE WORLD
Cult Films, Exploitation, Bikers & Women In Prison, Monster Movies.

FIRST STRIKE PRODUCTIONS
Producing my own scripts, investment possibilities, pipe dreams.

NAKED SCREENWRITING CDs

Naked Class The NAKED SCREENWRITING CLASS ON CD! The 2001 London Class on 8 CDs! Recorded *live* the morning after the Raindance Film Festival wrapped. The two day class on 8CDs, plus a workbook, plus a bonus CD.
The 2 Day Class on CD!

BOOKSTORE

Every screenwriting book in the world!
SCREENWRITER'S BOOKSTORE
In Association With Amazon.com
From the latest screenwriting book to guides for finding agents and producers... all with at the Amazon.com discount!

SCRIPT SECRETS STORE

Script Secret Store SCRIPT SECRETS STORE From Typing Monkey coffee cups to messenger bags to T shirts - everything a screenwriter needs to look sharp while working on that Oscar nomination! Get your Script Secrets Coffee Cup today!

BILL'S CORNER

My nineteen produced films, interviews with me in magazines, several sample scripts, my available scripts list... And MORE!
...............................BILL'S CORNER


Available Scripts

BOOKLETS & PRODUCTS

bluebook FIRST STRIKE BLUE BOOKS
Each Blue Book is 48 pages and focuses on a different aspect of screenwriting. Dialogue. Visual Storytelling. Your First Ten Pages. Act 2 Booster. Protagonists. Great Endings.
Seventeen Blue Books now available!

THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING OUT OF PRINT!