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Only Just the Beginning

Posted by on Aug 9, 2018 in Busybird | 0 comments

Writing a novel is a journey, not only for the characters and the world you create, but also for yourself. That’s what I find anyway, especially when writing fantasy.

Currently, I’m on my thirteenth chapter, and aim to have my book finished by the end of the year. It’ll be my first big written project and to finish it  would elevate my confidence levels immensely. Usually, and especially if I am passionate about a goal and I voice it enough to myself and others, I complete it. That is what is so exciting. Every moment I sit at my computer and write, traveling the roads I’ve paved out for my characters, the prospect of the end becomes all the more real to me and I become exhilarated to continue.

I find it interesting when certain situations land you opportunities you had no idea were possible, especially if starting from the beginning means not knowing which road to take. Graduating from high school, I scored enough to land myself into a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Film & Television) course at JMC Academy. This lasted for two years and I must say, aside from my Year 12 exams, they were certainly the most stressful two years of my life. Although enjoyable, I never felt at home unless I was writing and it was in the last year and nearing graduation that it finally occurred to me in screenwriting class that I had to do something in writing! I’d always had the imagination and stories would often play out in my head as I went to sleep. I never wrote them down, so I can guarantee that there are a number of lost stories floating endlessly through my brain.

I’m someone who lost myself twice – count three times if I include the years at high school where I felt academically I wasn’t as good as everybody else because often tasks weren’t set to my strengths.

After the first time, and as I recovered, there was a peak of Alison surfacing, and so when she disappeared again, I knew exactly what was happening. When the chance came, I dragged myself away from the horrible environment that had been the year of my graduation. Between grieving a loved relationship, losing my grandfather and being treated horribly by people whom I thought friends, I was a mess.

The more I treated myself with things I wanted to do – and I started writing my novel – I realised that, once again, I was surfacing and this time through experience and heartache, I was coming back much stronger and wiser than before. I started a four/five-day training regime at the gym, along with a mental health plan.

My journey didn’t stop there. I then signed myself up to two short writing courses in Gisborne. If the first class taught me anything it was that I was exactly where I was meant to be. I was going to write my story and I was going to finish it, no matter what. I was then speaking passionately to Adam – the bus driver who took me home from work that night – about just how much I loved writing and how I wished I would be supported in my change of career path at home. Through a connection he’d had with Kev, once working together and now knowing what he did, Adam suggested Busybird Publishing. I had to check it out.

So, my best friend and I travelled to Greensborough during that same week, and I was greeted by Les who was welcoming and taught me so much in just that single conversation.

I then landed the internship and am ever grateful for the opportunity for I know that I’m in the right place. Les, Blaise, Shell, Kev and Megan are all amazing people to be around and I feel that every Tuesday, Busybird is my safe place where I can just be myself.

I just love it.

Alison Achter
Editorial Intern

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The Differences Between Writing Prose and Writing Screenplays

Posted by on Jul 26, 2018 in Busybird | 0 comments

Lots of authors are interested in adapting their novels into screenplays. These authors usually fall into one of two categories:

    1. they have no idea how to do this
    2. they think they can just translate their prose into script format.

For writers who’ve never had no experience in writing screenplays, it’s better to be clueless than confident.

Books and films are completely different forms. Books often operate as cerebral entities – being inside a character’s head; being privy to their thoughts; witnessing their emotional responses, decision-making, and how events affect them. Film and television are visual mediums. Short of using a narrative/voiceover (not highly regarded in screenwriting unless it’s done exceptionally), none of these book drivers work in screenplays. Information has to be communicated visually. Some of that is left up to the actor, and their ability to express and relate what they’re feeling. But a bigger portion is left to the screenwriter, and how they set up their scenes so this is communicated.

Here’s a scenario: a protagonist comes home to find their partner, and all their belongings, are gone.

In prose, how is this handled? The protagonist comes home to an empty house. They might initially believe that their partner is out, so they call to them but there’s no answer. The protagonist checks the bedroom, and finds their partner’s clothes and things are gone. Maybe a note of condemnation has been left on the protagonist’s pillow. The protagonist realises that their partner has left them. There might be some context now, relating as to why this has happened – all the possible reasons that frame the situation for the reader’s interpretation. The protagonist is saddened, then angry, and tries to call their partner. Nothing. They question themselves. As they take responsibility and ownership of the situation, they break down.

Now, how about in screenwriting? All the physical actions can be represented – calling to the partner, the note, the empty closets and drawers, and that sort of thing. But how is the internalisation handled? How does the screenplay get inside the protagonist’s head to explore why this might’ve happened? The protagonist can’t just think about how they’ve been inattentive, or a workaholic who’s sacrificed their relationship for their career, or whatever the context might be. So how is that gotten across? How is the sadness and anger portrayed? In prose, it can as simple as a sentence saying just that. In film, it has to be expressed visually, e.g. the protagonist begins to sob, then grows enraged and slams the door.

Another distinction is that books are, usually, the sole vision of the author. They see the story from inception to completion. Even an editor exists to try help the author get to their destination.

Screenplays are a collaborative process. At some point, other people will get on board – a director, producers, etc. They’ll have their own interpretation of what a screenplay needs. It’s actually not unusual for the screenwriter to be phased out of the process, and another screenwriter (or screenwriters) are brought in to carry the project forward. Some of these screenwriters might be specialists, e.g. a screenwriter who specialises in structure, or who specialises in dialogue, or a ‘script doctor’ who’s brought in to help with a troublesome script. Directors will also rewrite the script. A big-name actor might demand changes, or refer the screenplay onto their preferred screenwriter. Or a screenplay might be changed to suit a particular actor, e.g. Beverly Hills Cop was intended for Sylvester Stallone, but was made more jokey when Eddie Murphy was hired; Salt was intended for a male lead, but then rewritten for Angelina Jolie. Most Hollywood screenplays would’ve gone through numerous screenwriters (although regulations stipulate that only a certain amount of screenwriters can be credited).

Because of this, it’s best if details in a screenplays are sparse. A book might elaborately describe a character. A screenplay might just say they’re ‘thirty-something’. The reason for this is because each reader of a screenplay – and particularly a director – will envision the story in their own way. They don’t want to be told specifically how everything should look. In fact, these kind of details can disconnect them from the material, and decrease their chances of taking it on. When they do, they use the screenplay as a basis for their vision, or for the studio’s vision.

Ultimately, both forms of writing have to be handled differently – they require a fundamental shift in the way writers think they need to express their stories. A novel will, on average, be about 80,000 words (and sometimes bigger). A screenplay is about 25,000 words. In screenwriting, a page equals about a minute – it’ll vary from page to page (depending on if a page is heavy with dialogue, or with action) but, over the course, will even itself out. While writers still need to observe structure, screenwriting substantially gives them less space with which to play.

These are just a handful of the differences, but should offer enough of an insight to see how each form varies.

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