How does a writer create a screenplay from a manuscript? The writer needs to know how best to transform the content of the manuscript so that it is suitable for the screen. A writer needs to think outside the box because writing a screenplay requires a different skill set.
From a Solitary Creator to Multiple Creators
The process of screenwriting also involves collaboration. It is not the same as having an editor refine the manuscript before publication. The optimal transformation of a book into a screenplay requires a different approach.
A screenplay is also the primary stage of a collaborative process that may involve several rewrites as the material is adapted for the screen. The screenplay as initially scripted is merely the blueprint for the movie that unfolds during a creative collaboration.
Differences between Book and Screenplay Writing
The first difference is that readers read a book to absorb the words as written, but the movie audience absorbs the content from the visual and spoken words on screen. Moviegoers will not discover the inner workings of the characters’ minds through prose; they can only figure out what is visible through actions, dialogue, facial expressions, and movements of the actors.
Cutting the Content to the Bone
Typically, a single page of a script is the equivalent of one minute on film. As movies normally run for two hours, this means the written screenplay will be about 120 pages in length. Characterization may shift or alter in the storytelling process. In some movies adapted from books, protagonists have been combined to create a new screen character.
Power Passes to Moviemaking Professionals
The novelist will have to rely on professionals experienced in the movie-making process to bring the written words to life. Unless the screenwriter is also the director, producer and executive producer, power is in the hands of the moviemaking professionals.
The director’s vision defines what is put on film, but the director is selected by the producer. The interpretive role is in the hands of the actors who are cast to embody the characters as described in the book. Their skill can create multidimensional characters.
Ultimately, the director and producer decide which parts of the script to keep and which they will ignore or discard. They may require the writer to revise some parts or choose another scriptwriter to do it.
The author is the prime creator of all that appears in a book’s content. As a screenplay writer, an author participates in the unfolding creative process of creating a movie. Often what is depicted in the movie is quite different from the book it is inspired by or based on. Optimally, the screen version lives up to the standard set by the original material.