A few weeks ago I wrote here that I had an idea for a screenplay.
Of course I also wrote a long time back that I was planning to give up writing. I just can’t be trusted, can I?
But here’s the thing: while I feel burnt out about novel writing (unless I get a massive advance and a fantastic publisher, and other delusions), I’m weirdly excited about writing a screenplay.
Maybe it’s because the story is developing visually in my mind, and also because a screenplay is shorter than a novel (about 120 pages with lots of white space) and has a radically different format.
By the way, did you know you can download some famous screenplays for free? Turns out they’re all over the internet. So far I’ve checked out the first 10-20 pages of several superb scripts, including Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, Peter Benchley’s adaptation of his own novel, Jaws, and my fave rave movie of all time, Raiders of the Lost Ark. I also ordered cheap out-of-print paperbacks of two famous screenplays, Chinatown and The Exorcist.
That’s right. The Exorcist. Did you know it won the Oscar for Best Screenplay Adaptation in 1973?
As critics point out, The Exorcist, far from being just some horror flick, was in fact a brilliant study of evil and perhaps should be ranked on the same level as other intelligent classic 1970’s movies—a decade that might be the best one for movies ever.
Then there’s The Exorcist‘s pacing, which is pretty much perfect. I realized this when I recently watched the movie on cable after not having seen it in years. I was really struck by the pacing of the story and the way it quietly and seamlessly unfolded in scene after scene and moved naturally from one character to another, until suddenly the confrontation between the priests and the possessed girl has begun and you find yourself white-knuckled with terror and OMG what’s happening and this is horrible and then… the terror is over… and the movie quietly, ominously ends…
This is the kind of suspenseful storytelling you would find in the best Hitchcock movie. Except that Hitchcock, while giving me a thrill, never scarred the holy crap out of me.
The more I think about it and the more I read screenplay pages, the more I realize how much movies and TV have influenced my novel writing. But that only makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean, we grew up with movies and TV shows (scripted ones, not crappy “reality shows”), which are all about storytelling. The best screenwriters all say the same thing: that the most important elements in what they write are the story and the characters. NOT special effects. NOT gimmicks and marketing.
I bet a lot of you knew well before I did about how the screen has influenced your books, and about how they’ve inspired you as writers. Any movies or shows really stand out for you? I bet you could name a bunch of them. Have a great week.