Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wrangling Three Octopi – And A Horse

Tackling an adaptation is a daunting task. You need to find the most interesting scenes, the ones that will translate well to the silverscreen and then make the plot your own.

Tackling a rewrite of an adaptation is not for whimps. Marla and I have both done a lot of rewriting in our time and I have also rewritten scripts for clients. It’s tough but somehow this one has proven to be much harder.

Part of that challenge has been the fact that we received feedback from a trusted consultant who recommended we dispose of the entire first act. That meant changing all the dramatic introductions that we’d worked so hard at, and since we were changing the location we had to start from the gate.

First step? Outline, of course. Which we did, until we had a solid plan for the new beginning. I was concerned that the new first act was going to come in short in terms of the page count. In a one hundred page script, the first act should be about 25 pages, the second act 50 pages and the third, 25. Those are rough estimates but you certainly want the act “breaks” to fall at about that page, give or take 2 or 3 pages.

So I transferred the outline into our screenwriting software and proceeded to flesh it out, BUT, since I knew Marla was going to be busy I decided to surprise her. Big mistake!

Did I mention that Marla and I are usually on the same wavelength? LOL We must have been that day, because she decided to surprise me! And did she ever!

I was barely halfway through my “fleshing” when I received a call from her. Apparently, Marla had had a fabulous idea for a new first act. It just jumped up and grabbed her unbidden and out of nowhere. That’s how inspiration works sometimes --and she couldn’t rest until she had it all written down. She nearly had to cancel her plans that day, but found the idea so strong it stayed with her all during the movie she went to see! Now that’s one very unforgettable idea!

And I loved it!

But then the octopi attacked. I should explain, that a rewrite is like tackling an octopus. I had already added a second octopus to the fray when I started fleshing out our outline and now Marla’s brainstorm was added to the frenzy. Three octopi, 24 tentacles, and suction cups galore.

A beastly sticky situation if ever there was such a beast.

It was a tough job, but I managed to assemble it into a semi-coherent mess. It’s in chronological order now, and that’s at least something we can work with! And we now have more conflict in the story, more hooks and intrigue.

No pain, no gain. Improvement has its ruts along the way. We’re getting there.

Now we “just” have to rewrite 30 pages in act 2. And change the mess into a masterpiece.

Oh, and the horse? Since we picked the actor we really want for the protagonist, and I saw him on a horse, I’ve been kind of obsessed with our protagonist riding a horse at some point in the story. Marla has been laughing at me for weeks, but her new intro…?  Have I got her on my wavelength at last?

Neigh! LOL


  1. Great article! Could you elucidate on making the Plot your own?

    Thanks, Diane

  2. Hi, Diane:
    Writing a script is very different from writing a novel. A film script has to stand on its own!
    Certain changes are inevitable, characters need to be combined, locations considered, etc. Every small change necessitates another one or two! That's why a movie adaptation is sometimes less satisfying than the novel. Many things in a novel can be quite "unfilmable". There were two previous (failed) attempts to adapt Green Darkness. We are very aware of the pitfalls.
    What we're doing is mining the essence for the part of the novel that MOVES readers emotionally!
    The book takes place in the distant past and in 1968. We've updated 1968 to the present, which means bringing out a whole new set of sensibilities and expectations. We're hoping that the changes we make will enhance the main story in the past.
    The Point of View from which the story is told will be different than the novel and, we hope, even more compelling. No spoilers, sorry. :)
    Hope you're enjoying our journey and stay tuned for further postings...

  3. Just found your blog and I'm so excited you've taken on this adaptation!! Green Darkness is one of my favorite books - I've read it many times. I know you're far from the filming stages, but do you anticipate doing much location work when you get to that point? I think it's really cool that the Spread Eagle is still around and operational. And of course the scenes in Cumberland with the Dacres would be gorgeous (if you intend to keep those in). I'll definitely keep reading to see how you're coming along.

  4. Hi, Kristen: We anticipate a good deal of location work! There are many outdoor scenes that will need to be worked in and, yes, we'd like to use the Spread Eagle Tavern! :)
    We're really excited about this project and love to hear from the fans of GREEN DARKNESS. If you have a Facebook account, please 'LIKE' our Facebook page -- Green.Darkness.Adaptation. Nice to have you and all the other fans along on our adventure!