Adaptation for Screenplays

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Adaptation for Screenplays

Postby Kippy » Oct 08, 2013 8:18 am

Looking for some feedback on a project I’m considering. I initially wanted to adapt a short story into a screenplay. The original story was written in the 1800’s. Pretty simple project. However, I found that several key elements of the original work would make for a poor screenplay (although the overall story is still very entertaining).

So here’s my question: If I’m going to change dramatic elements throughout the story (to include a new version of the beginning & the ending), should I even base my screenplay on the original story? Keep in mind, I thought to keep the main characters and the “concept” true to the original story, but apart from that, it’s being revised substantially. So at what point do I go from attempting an “adaptation” of an existing novel to basically writing my story? Thanks!


Re: Adaptation for Screenplays

Postby lordhornasstr » Oct 09, 2013 4:16 am

I think there is a small difference in the two words --- adapt v/s base.

If you are 'adapting' the story, then at some point, people and yourself should be able to identify which story the screenplay originated from.

If you are 'basing' the screenplay for the story, there is no need for people to realize the source of the movie. And as such, you can "pick and choose" the "best parts" of the story and put it into your movie.

The whole idea here is to remember that you are looking at transforming the story into a feature length screenplay (Indie and/or mainstream). And it means making it work in a different medium (remember - movies are SHOWN, stories are READ).

My suggestion -- forget about the too thin line between words, and instead make sure you turn up a killer screenplay. That way, you'll be doing both, the screenplay and the story, a strong justice.

Regards -- LH

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Chris Huntley
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Re: Adaptation for Screenplays

Postby Chris Huntley » Oct 14, 2013 4:05 pm

I agree with lordhornasstr above.

Here is a slightly different angle shown from a Dramatica context. (From the Dramatica Theory book:

A Word About Adaptation
"Read the book; see the movie!" "Now a major motion picture!" "A novelization…" "A new musical based on the stage play…" "...based on the book…" "...based on the hit movie!" "The timeless story of…" "...a classic tale…" "...updated for today’s audience…" "...colorized…" "...reformatted to fit your screen…" "edited for television."

It’s the same old story. Or is it? Is a story the same when translated from one medium to another and if not, how is it different? What qualities must be changed to preserve a story’s integrity? To adapt adeptly an author needs to know the answers to these questions.

Before we can find out answers, it would be prudent to define some terms. First, what do we mean by adaptation?" Simply, adaptation is the process of translating a story from one medium to another. What is a medium?" A medium is a physical facility for storing information and the processes involved in recovering it. Finally, what is story?" For our purposes we shall define story as any information an author wishes to communicate to an audience (including considerations, experiences, and feelings).

So, putting it all together, adaptation is the process of translating information from one physical facility for storage and retrieval to another in such a way that it can be communicated to an audience. Sounds cold, doesn’t it. That’s because this is simply the logistic description of adaptation.

A more organic description might be: Adaptation is the process of reproducing an audience experience in another medium. That has a better feel to it, but is much less precise. Also, we can clearly see a difference in the purpose of each approach, as pointed out above when we spoke of the new story’s identity versus its integrity. One seeks to preserve the parts, the other to be true to the whole. And that is the paradox at the heart of the adapter’s dilemma: Should authors strive to recreate the structure accurately or to reproduce the dynamics faithfully? More to the point, why can’t we do both?

There is much more to it that can be found at a little over half way down the page at this link:

If you'd rather listen to the Adaptation segment from the Dramatica theory book:

Chris Huntley
Write Brothers Inc.

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