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Turning A Novel Into Film – Characters And Actors On The Loose

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When adapting a novel manuscript to a film script, I realize it will take a whole host of other people to tell me how successful I might be. I’ve done this twice before, and realize that I must not only ignore my usual method of writing, but often go exactly against it.

I attempted to “learn” how to write for film. I read many instruction books, attended classes and workshops, and had meetings with people. I read many film scripts, which did help me accept the (to my eye) arcane format. But the one thing that actually turned me visual, was the comment of a writer/editor friend who said, after reading my attempt, “I can’t see it.”

That is, it did not cause visual action in her mind.

And I understood.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle is to accept that a movie is not a book, and that changes, additions and omissions will be necessary. As with a play, there is a finite time limit, that generally clocks in under two hours. The threads and plot points of a movie are different. And the characters (I swear) feel this freedom, and choose to accentuate other aspects of themselves than revealed in a novel.

The very fact their paragraphs of dialogue are best reduced to two or three lines makes them uppity. And because they can, in mere seconds, be in diverse locations, performing radically different actions, they become exact without apology. They don’t have to fill in the spaces.

The writer has to fill in the spaces however, and do so with visual stimulation. The transitions have to be swift and their descriptions exact. The road is always the fast lane and the characters kick the tires with gusto.

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Because Of Shakespeare And His Influence On Books

The stage is as bare as my lady’s ass in his lordship’s bedchamber.

Rough-hewn in the most knockabout way, leaving splinters in the palace lawns of the imagination. There’s many a dip ‘twixt the trap and the lip.

It fares little better than hastily strewn boards covering parched ground, and barely enough elevation to keep the understanding masses at bay.

Were one fool enough to come from out the wings, and at centre front begin a soliloquy about the beauty of the wretched arena on which he stands, to fight the resulting and justified spontaneous combustion, there would not be found one drop of piss from any a Thespian’s hose.

For who could allow this sacrilege to be spoken? Even the flag atop the pole knows that the magic is not yet arrived.

A stage without commercial trappings:

without solid doors and thick drapes,

uncluttered by pillars,

and arches,

tables and chairs,

windows and fireplaces;

sans orchestra, sans balcony, sans pit.

A stage revealing all its secrets.

Profound as emptiness.

A stage in wait.

For in this world writ small (as in the globe around)

the audience

has nothing to know/ nothing to learn,

until the actor makes an entrance and prepares

to fight through our eyes and ears

to battle with those thoughts and fears

that lurk in sheltered halls.

What’s Hecuba to him?

Why – nothing.

Merely a name on a page of script,

A cue at which to turn his profile thus.

 

It is what Hecuba becomes to we who wait,

That turns the key upon the heavy gate.

April Fool’s Joke (Except It’s True)

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I glean through many sources (some of them disparate) after information of which agents and which editors have purchased recent books that are similar to one of my manuscripts.
When I find someone I think will be compatible to some of my work, I research them. Then, if I think they would have a reasonable interest in my manuscript (and there can be a variety of reasons) I’ll send a query letter.
I prefer to go through this process of finding names a number of times in a row, instead of finding a compatible person, then immediately sending a query. So, when I find a person I plan to contact, I send this information to myself in an email. It can be weeks before I actually send a query to an agent or editor, and then it can be two or more months before I hear a reply.
Last week I came across the information that John le Carré has a new book coming out the end of this year. I adore John le Carré. This announcement unusually named both his agent and editor. I sent both to myself, and I imagine I would get to them in the next two or three weeks.
This morning, April 1st, I had notification of a rejection by an agent for my NATO Thriller. It was a refusal sent through the portal of the agency (which happens more and more). Since it was not an actual response by the agent, I had to go to my Sent file to see who I had sent the query to.
Uh-huh – it was the same agent as John le Carré. So, I actually got rejected before I sent the query.
Well – anyway – that’s how writers think.
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Letters Looking At Life From Here And There

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Dear Eustace:

My mind confronts so many intangible truths that you sometimes seem – or is it just hope on my part – to be my only peg of reality.

Have you noticed whenever we finally believe we know the reason for something which happens, it often occurs that the real reasons are exactly the opposite.

Everything walks a line – as narrow as those upon this page – between profound revelation and mindless absurdity.

As I look through my window, the shadows cast through the trees on the next building, take the shape of a French poodle carrying a parasol.

Is even Nature absurd?

Yours,

Margot

 
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Dear Margot:

Nature is nothing but reality, only the intangible can be absurd.

As I’ve said too many times (and why do I repeat myself yet again)

you spend too much effort – and a wasted effort, for how can it be other –

on futile quest and query.

The only truth to be found is in sour milk, or pleasant fornication.

These things are real, these things exist.

Absurdity is kittens playing, or the Prime Minister’s latest speech.

These are the things we look at with amusement or contempt – we know not to expect much from either.

Quit you silly endeavours and join the world which surrounds you.

Don’t enter the world that your head surrounds.

All important answers can be found between someones legs.

Yours,

Eustace

 

(image) https: //content.etilize.com/Original/1011505126.jpg

Book Blurb For Poetry Book Not Written

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Poetry From The Light Fixture is an illuminating book of verse from an electrifying author.

The poet in question is a questioning poet, quarrying for answers in the rich loam of Earth’s mysteries.

The instinct of a pollen-laden honeybee,

Coupled with the dynamic curiosity of a fluffy kitten,

Allow this poet to plumb the depths of inarticulate sensitivity,

And grant to us,

Grateful readers everywhere,

Proof positive that,

Yes,

Ideed,

Here is a mind that actually thinks.

(image) https://technical.sabhlokcity.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/ceiling-light-4.jpg

My Letter To Franz Kafka

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Dear F:

Although it will give you no pleasure – well, ‘little’ pleasure – you are correct in all your observations. 

Governments become the tools of the bureaucracies which run them.

It doesn’t matter what type of Government, from the monarchy under which you lived, to the right-wing horror of fascists which called themselves socialists, to the inept socialism pretending to be ‘for the people’. All three governments held their sway over the city where you spent your life.  All three oppressed the people they ruled. All three looked after themselves first.

Writers are either writers or they aren’t.

The urge to write encircles one like a snake around its prey. Feed it and it won’t quite squeeze you to death. You can not ignore it – even at your peril. It is with you every hour of every day, ever inquisitive and (sadly) always looking for something better.

Love is a see-saw of extremes.

Every high guarantees a low. Every low reaches for a high. Every high reaches for a high. When these hills and valleys are eventually levelled, they are still desired.

Sex is highly over-rated.

The thing of it is, even rated fairly ’tis a consummation devoutly to be had.  Yes – I know – you appreciate Shakespeare. On a par with Goethe, even if you can’t bring yourself to say the words.

People are just one damned thing after another.

Of course, so many people have brought you blessings that you throw up you hands to ward off the snake. Sometimes loosening its grip.

There is no castle with walls thick enough to hide against the perils of being human. 

Which is why you never tried.

Except the grave, of course.

Except the grave.

 Yours,

D

Kafka Wants To Light A Fire – Well … Not Really

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Much is made – again and again – about Kafka’s famous request to his friend, Max Brod, that all his manuscripts be burned unread. That included all his fiction, all his letters, and all his diaries.  Consigned to the flames and removed from the earth.

Had this been done, most of the work for which Kafka is famous would never be known, for little was published during his life. His skewed yet realistic outlook on life, now famously known as Kafkaesque, would not be classed in every dictionary. A touchstone, known the world over, would have been lost. Kafka might, at best, been remembered as the man who wrote about the bug.

Brod gets a bum rap about defying Kafka’s direction to burn all his manuscripts. Yes, Kafka did indeed make this request of Brod. He apparently made it a few times, both verbally and in writing.  Each time, Bord told him outright he would not follow Kafka’s request. “It ain’t” – if I might slip into a vernacular the erudite Brod would ever use – “going to be me, chum.”

Another prominent time  Kafka refused to do something that he could have easily done himself, concerned his famous Letter To His Father. Instead of handing (or sending) the letter  to his father, he gave it to his mother to pass on, knowing full well his mother would not be part of causing such discord. And – in fact – his father never read the letter.

If Kafka really wanted all his manuscripts burned, he could have just as easily (indeed – more easily) done it himself. He certainly did burn much of what he wrote. Brod once found him doing it. It is estimated he burned 70-80% of his own work.

Kafka might have renewed his written request near the end of his life, but he made it to the one man whom he knew would not do it.

That was Kafka

It Was NOT The Person From Porlock On The Phone

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My elevator pitch for my current work, There Was A Time, Oh Pilgrim, When The Rocks Were Not So Smooth is “In Xanadu, did Alison Alexandra / a stately pleasure dome decree”. Stolen whole cloth from Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his Kubla Khan.

So, I was startled awake this morning by a ringing phone. Just rang once. I have been attempting to write a dialogue between three characters in a pub concerning a dish of poutine. Although I did not exactly leap from my supine position to write the following, it was damn close.

I look upon the incident as a gift from the Backward Gods of writing.

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Excerpt from: There Was A Time, Oh Pilgrim, When The Rocks Were Not So Smooth

“I’ve not had that,” says Bridget. “What is it?”

“A heart stopper.” says Amanda.

“Pretty well,” agrees Alison Alexandra.

“They start with a big effing pile of French fries.”

“Excuse her French,” says Alison Alexandra.

“And then they pile on cheese curds and smother that with gravy.”

“Smother,” agrees Alison Alexandra.

“Then they check your pulse and let you go at it.”

“They don’t really do that,” says Alison Alexandra.

“Maybe not,” says Amanda. “But I bet they have a defibrillator handy.”

“Probably,” says Alison Alexandra.

“Well,” Bridget smiles. “It sounds as if a pitcher of draft will go real good with that.”

 

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Getting Published In New York In The Old Days

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Over The Transom

My friend Google tells me that “over the transom” is still a viable term. In this case it refers to a manuscript accepted by an editor submitted cold – perhaps even from the dreaded slush pile.

At any rate, my manuscript for A LOST TALE was accepted “over the transom”, and I was asked to New York to meet the editor. Although I had experienced and appreciated Montréal, Toronto, London, Berlin and other large cities by that time, I had not been to New York. Many events of that trip are memorable, but none more than my “lunch” with the editor.

The editor took me to a dark and trendy place for a late lunch. There were not many people there and, restaurant fiend though I am, the food was not my top priority. Discussion of “the work” and proposed changes was more on the menu for me.

As I sit across the table from my editor, I can not help but notice a man seated by himself beside the wall. He is tieless and shirtless and, though the lighting is dim, what there is reflects from his naked skin. He sits with a beverage and seems to hum to himself.

My editor is discussing both the menu and some confusion he perceives at the beginning of my novel. I note items on the menu unknown to me and am doubly confused.

The shirtless man at the other table increases the volume of his humming and eventually a waiter goes to him and has words. The shirtless man has words back, but they sound like gibberish. At my table the editor suggests something from the menu and I happily comply. There is wine.

Whilst I eat and listen to suggestions, the shirtless man is spoken to by two other waiters. As I (wisely) restrict myself to a second glass of wine, two uniformed policemen enter the restaurant and approach the shirtless man, whose gibberish had increased even more in volume. In the course of a few minutes three other uniformed police officers – one of them female  – arrive on the scene. They are now ranged around the shirtless man and his table. I finally tell my editor what is happening behind him and why I am not concentrating fully upon his suggestions. He turns around.

Two of the officers remove the table from in front of the shirtless man. Two others, one on each side of him, haul him to his feet. It is then that we see his shirtless state continues all the way to his naked feet. The female officer takes the tablecloth from the table and drapes it around him. The four male officers form a circle around the naked, shrouded man uttering his gibberish, and hustle him from the restaurant. The female officer picks up what appears to be a pile of clothes from beneath the table, and a pair of roller skates, and follows them.

I say to my editor that I have never seen anything like that.

My editor concurs.

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