May 10, 2021

Rewriting a script as a novel


LITERATURE

By THOMAS HUKAHU
IN my last article, I shared my experience of writing a script and entering an international competition and eventually winning a prize.
The experience was shared to illustrate that we, in Papua New Guinea, can work on our local stories and share those with the international community.
In this week’s article, I want to share with you something that is a bit advanced but may be attempted by some of you in the future.

Thinking about rewriting the script
When the news about me winning the prize came out, one of the most senior managers with this newspaper met me one afternoon and suggested that I should possibly rewrite the script as a narrative that many other readers can enjoy, and not as a script.
“You mean, write it as a novel?” I asked.
“Yes, that would be a good idea,” he responded.
Actually, that was what I was thinking about too at that point in time.
I knew that most people who like reading as a pastime will not enjoy reading a script.
Only students of literature, drama or acting read scripts in the same way that the millions of others read prose, which includes novels and short stories.
At least one other person hinted that rewriting the script as a novel would be a good idea.
That was how I started the process of rewriting The Confessions into a novel.

Hints from YouTube
A place that I usually visit to get ideas about writing, and writing scripts or any fiction for that matter, is YouTube.
One of the videos that I watched on that site helped in further urging me to try turning some scripts that I wrote into novels or short stories.
A well-known screenwriter was being interviewed and he said he had written a good number of scripts but most of them were not bought.
That is, they were not purchased by a production company, which will then shoot a film based on what the screenwriter had written.
The screenwriter said he was planning to convert some of those scripts into novels, and in his career he was able to sell a few of such novels successfully, those that were originally written as scripts.
That is a possibility that scriptwriters can also do with their scripts (which are in dialogue form), rewrite them as prose, as novels or short stories.
This process is the reverse of the common practice of writing a script which is based on a novel or short story.
And there are many examples of movies that were based on a novel or short story, including First Blood (1982) from David Morrell’s 1972 book and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) which is based on F Scott Fitzgerald’s short story.
The practice of rewriting a script as a novel is not a common practice but it can be used to share a story with readers, a story which may not have been told on stage or on the silver screen.
An example: The script
Let us look at how such a task can be done.
Here is a part of a script that I completed years ago.
It is called Chicken Feet and is another sorcery-related attack story that I completed in 2018.
The young men in the script are searching for an old couple who they are suspecting of using sorcery to attack someone.

Here is part of the script:
RUBEN: (Holding the pots up) There are things in these pots.
BRAND: What things?
RUBEN: Come and see!
(BRAND, PROX and BEN move closer, towards RUBEN and watch closely. RUBEN pours the contents of the small pot onto the veranda. Water and leaves fall out.)
RUBEN: Strange-looking leaves, ah? Not greens. Very spooky?
PROX: Not greens?
BEN: Definitely not greens.
BRAND: Yes! What about the other pot?
(RUBEN pours the contents of the pot out. Chicken feet and taros pop onto the veranda.)
RUBEN: Chicken feet!
BRAND: (Bends down to look) Just chicken legs – no other body parts?
RUBEN: None! That makes it even spookier. There is also ginger that was sliced and left on the table. It seems the couple was up to no good.
BRAND: No chicken body parts? What did they do with the body parts?
RUBEN: That is a good question.
BRAND: I think that is it. That is evidence. But where is the couple?
PETER: They must have been warned and left?
BRAND: Left for where? We did not pass anyone going into the village.
PETER: Maybe they went to the bushes to hide.
RUBEN: The fire in their fireplace is still burning where the pots were on it. I think they are not too far away. Let’s find them.
BRAND: Everyone! Set the place on fire and let’s go look for the sorcerers!
An example: The novelised form
Now, let us look at a novelised form of that same script.
Here are the descriptions of the same story in the script in the last section, but written in prose:
Ruben held up the two pots to waist-level, while gazing into them. “There are things in these pots,” he informed the others.
“What things?” Brand turned to look at Ruben.
“Come and see!” Ruben said.
Brand, Prox and Ben moved closer, towards Ruben, and watched closely. Ruben poured the contents of the small pot onto the veranda. Water and leaves fell out.
“Strange-looking leaves, ah?” Ruben said. “Not greens. Very spooky?”
“Not greens?” Prox asked and focused on the leaves on the veranda.
“Definitely not greens,” Ben said, leaning down to gaze at the leaves.
“Yes!” Brand said while looking at the stuff on the veranda, before turning to Ruben. “What about the other pot?”
Ruben poured out the contents of the second pot. Chicken feet and taros popped onto the veranda.
“Chicken feet!” Ruben said, now looking at the other men.
Brand bent down to look at the stuff: “Just chicken legs – no other body parts?”
“None!” Ruben said loudly. “That makes it even spookier. There is also ginger that was sliced and left on the table. It seems the couple was up to no good.”
“No chicken body parts?” Brand said and gazed at the others. “What did they do with the body parts?”
“That is a good question,” Ruben said.
“”I think that is it,” Brand said. “That is evidence. But where is the couple?”
“They must have been warned and left?” Peter suggested.
“Left for where?” Brand said, looking at Peter. “We did not pass anyone going into the village.”
“May be they went to the bushes to hide,” Peter said, and turned his gaze to the bushes on both sides of the house.
“The fire in their fireplace is still burning where the pots were on it,” Ruben said. “I think they are not too far away. Let’s find them.”
“Everyone!” Brand raised his voice. “Set the place on fire and let’s go look for the sorcerers!”

Notice some things
Did you notice what I did to rewrite the script as prose, as part of a novel?
In scripts, no quotation marks are used to indicate conversations between the characters. In prose, the conversation between people is indicated using quotation marks.
In the script, the stage directions are written in present tense. In the prose form, the verbs in the stage directions are written in past tense.
In prose, you should describe the characters, their actions and the setting to help the reader see what is happening.
In scriptwriting, all that, the actions of characters and the setting, will be shown or played out on stage (or filmed).

An exercise for you
You may try an exercise like this by going online and look for a part of a script that you like.
Copy and paste it in a word document. That is the script.
Then copy and paste the same lines below the part of the script. That will be your prose.
Then you work your way through the second portion by doing what I did:

  • Put the words of characters between quotation marks
  • Change the verbs in the stage directions to past tense
  • Add descriptions to add more texture to the story.
  • And make other adjustments.

Once you are done, go back over your prose and edit.
Then look back at the script and compare to see that the story must still be the same but the adjustments you made should help the reader see the same things that would be in the script.
It is a challenging exercise but can help you improve your skills in working with both scripts and prose (short story and novel).
Next tip: Is poetry useful in writing?

  • Thomas Hukahu is an Australia Awards student in Adelaide.



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