Road Trip Wednesday: #153 Book-to-Film

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This weeks topic: It isn’t surprising that this month’s Bookmobile selection, Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bonehas sold film rights; the darkly magical world of the Shadow Fold begs for an on-screen translation! But that got us wondering. We’d like to know, in your opinion, what is it that makes some books seem ideal for a film translation?

I am inspired by this topic for a couple of reasons:

1) Like most readers, great world-building and character development are the food for my imagination. Envisioning the world, and “casting” a book I love is one of my favorite parts of reading.

2) With my screenwriting background, editing a book for movie translation is something I never seem to be able to avoid. Some books are easy (like when I read The Hunger Games, but Suzanne Collins used to be a screenwriter) some are hard (like Pure, with it’s multiple plot lines and sensory overload), all are fun.

I agree with the author of this topic, Shadow and Bone will lend itself well to film. It’s ripe with vivid images and told in a straight line by the narrator. Finding the visual narrative thread, and knowing what perspective to shoot in, should not prove too complicated for the writer tasked with adapting the screenplay. And that, in essence, is my answer. Book to film translation is so tricky for those very reasons: narrative voice and scope. When you read a book, the author has pages and pages of time to build and fill and maneuver the characters into the heart of the reader.

When writing a screenplay, every page (which is made up of minimally described scene, action and dialogue) has to do a lot of work. Each page of a screenplay is the equivalent to one minute of screen time. Most screenplays are 120 pages, (2 hour films) with some being much shorter and some being much longer. The Hunger Games screenplay, for instance, would have been roughly 142 pages for its 142 run-time. The book was 382 pages, a 140 page gap. This is not even taking into account the difference in word count per page.

My point? A book to screen adaptation is reliant largely on how easy the information given in the longer novel is to translate into action. Screen time is action driven, even if its a character piece. This is where the breakdown happens, I think, with a lot of books turned to film. For a book to work as a film there needs to be a strong action thread (By action I do not just mean running, fighting, or killing. Action is just anything that pushes the plot forward.) and one that is easy to show on film.

To drive this point home: the seventh Harry Potter book made a horrible movie. The last half of the book, as well as the second film, was easier to interpret because it was pretty purpose driven. The first part of the book, and the first film, was plodding and pushed forward by sheer will. We got through both because we were all fully vested in the characters. This will not happen for every book-to-film adaptation.

Divergent should make a pretty compelling film, as long as they remember Tris’ energy and don’t get too bound up in being overly-clever with storytelling. With first person POV translations, the trick is finding a new narrative voice (why I think Twilight was such a massive failure) to help the audience into the story.

All of this to say…book to film is always difficult because as a medium they are completely different. The best adaptations are ones with clear purpose, clean storytelling, and images that lend themselves well to screen.

One of the best book-to-film interpretations ever.

RTW # 150 — There is a season, turn, turn, turn

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This weeks topic is: How does your writing (place, time, inspiration) change with the seasons?

First, I want to say I had a wonderful time at the Austin Teen Book Fest and will try to do a post about it by the end of the week. Look forward to that!

Now on to the question. I like this question. I have always been highly susceptible to change in weather. When it’s sunny, I feel happy. When it’s gray, I feel introspective and gloomy. When it’s cold I imagine myself burrowing into a cave like a bear and emerging with a renewed vision come spring (also thinner because I’ve been hibernating and not eating). I love the colors of fall, and the romance of winter, and the clarity of spring, and the laziness of summer.

When I began working on my novel — exactly one year ago this week — fall was upon New York City. Fall in the northeast is a rhapsodic time. Poems can (and have) been written about it. Painters flock to the city and the surrounding land to capture the brilliance, this tangible proof that beauty can and always will be possible. The world is transformed, by leaves aglow from light like fire, by softened sunlight, or even by the reemergence of sweaters, stockings, and little wool caps.

I was very influenced when creating my world by the atmosphere of fall. I still am. My book takes place in late fall in a woods much like you would find sprawling across New England. Even as winter, spring, and summer have come and gone since I’ve been writing, in my mind I’ve tried to hold on to autumn.

So, I guess, to answer the question completely: I am not very influenced at all. I carry a season around with me as long as the project lives in that season. My manuscript is over 300 pages, but still it is just barely winter when it ends. As I come to the end of these revisions (my third round) I also come to the beginning of fall. Full circle, maybe even completion.


Road Trip Wednesday: # 146

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This weeks topic is:  Back to school time! What’s your favorite book that you had to read for a class?

High school was brief in my case, at least, public high school anyway. When I was a freshman my family lived in Colorado right down the street from Lewis Palmer High School. My brother and I both attended, but for me, high school was a bad dream. I got into trouble. Not your typical teenage rebellion, the trouble I found for myself had nothing to do with smoking pot on school grounds or vandalism. Mine was about justice (or my fifteen year-old skewed perspective of justice, which usually had to do with my authorities messing with my plans) and it usually meant tense confrontation with teachers I had no interest in understanding. I was frustrated with my life, felt trapped and out-of-place in Colorado, and missed family and friends back home. One teacher really had it out for me though. He taught algebra and grouped me in with the vapid mean girls I would never associate with under any form of torture, let alone his stupid glass. I was more of a drama geek than a cheerleader type. I also didn’t like being boxed. When he then punished this group of girls, including me, a foe was created. I spent the rest of my (short) career in his class terrorizing him. I also landed in ISS and Detention more times in three months than I like to recall. And that was just one of the irons I had in the fire. Needless to say, my parents decided that I should be schooled at home.

In my home schooling I read a lot of books — what else did I have to do?— and wrote a lot of crazy plays and short stories. One book, the book I am choosing as my response, was also one of the first books I read in my private education. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, struck the outcast in me like lightening.

 

I remember feeling Hester was someone I could be, someone I could actually understand and relate to. A testament to the classics is their long-term relevance. That book was published 150 years before I was reading it, and yet is made me feel almost normal. No, I was not a woman branded by adultery and raising the illegitimate child that was a result, but I felt branded nonetheless. I felt like the part of me that was true was deeply misunderstood. I carried secrets, and had few real friends. The tragic ending also played into my overly-dramatic-hopelessly-romantic side. At that time the idea of dying for love was super appealing to me, a girl who had never been in love or anywhere near love’s neighborhood.

I spent a lot of time with the classics as a teen, especially once I entered my banned book phase. But The Scarlet Letter was one of the first times I truly felt kindred to a character, and it was a character written well-before high school algebra teachers were throwing girls in detention because they threw a ruler at their head when called “sweetheart”.

What about you? What high school required reading book stands out in your mind today?

P.S. The website I pulled The Scarlet Letter book cover from featured an article about fashions inspired by the book. It was awesome, here’s the link.

Road Trip Wednesday: #145

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This Weeks Topic is: What was the best book you read in August?

I feel I must say — and I think I’m touching on a something being expressed by a collective moan among  others, and especially school teachers and children — that I would like to know where the hell August went? At the beginning of this month I actually recall saying to my husband that I couldn’t wait for the end of August. (At the time my son’s school situation for the fall was a lot more solid and my babysitter had not returned to college, how a month can change things?) August put me through the ringer, as it somehow always seems to, and I am left now breathing both a sigh of relief and scratching my head at it’s ending.

I read four books this month— four!— which was incredibly awesome considering I also finished a major rewrite at in the early part of the month as well. Woo-hoo! August was productive. Maybe that’s why it disappeared…? Anyway. My August books are:

So, clearly a trilogy and a stand-alone. Clearly, high fantasy and contemporary. Clearly, very, verydifferent books. If forced to pick a BEST book, (which I am if I want to participate in this RTW — and I do) I would have to go with…

Bitterblue!

Description courtesy Goodreads:

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle–disguised and alone–to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

As the final book in the Graceling Realm, I was already deeply invested in these characters and the Seven Kingdoms created by Kristen Cashore. In some ways Bitterblue could be considered weaker than the first two books in the series, primarily in the romance department (Cashore has this to say about that), but what it lacks there it makes up in vivid storytelling, drama, and such intricacy’s to plot that I found my mind reeling at the work she had to put in. But that’s not why Bitterblue wins out. For me, Bitterblue herself is why I fell so hard for this book. Bitterblue is a character I sort of relate to. Not in the sense that I had a pathological father who was also a demented king of a fictional land. (Although, wouldn’t that be a a shocking coincidence?) More because she was grappling with very human questions about love, sexuality, family, truth, and ultimately what all of those are wrapped up in, identity.

Much of my quest as a writer — mother, wife, friend, human being — is about the need to solidify and mold our (my) identity within the many confusing hats we are forced to wear as people. I think this is true at sixteen or twenty seven or whatever-age. I love watching Bitterblue come to terms with her world, it’s history, and the people she loves, in the midst of helping her kingdom do the same thing. I also adored Kristen Cashore’s passion and open-mindedness. Plus, I learned a lot about ciphers and code breaking. Really, send me a ciphered message, I’ll crack the bitch.

I am thankful for this writer, these books being on the market, and the joy that was reading them. The End.

Road Trip Wednesday: #144

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This Week’s Topic is: Inspired by Stephanie Perkins’ post on Natalie Whipple’s blog, what is your novel’s “Love List”?

I had to go read the post (as if they were twisting my arm, or something) to understand what this question meant. Once I did, I realized two things:

  1. This is a brilliant idea, it’s also something I have done mentally since my first draft without ever putting a name to what I was doing.
  2. I am now following this authors blog. My blogroll grows again.

So, you may or may not want clarification, but I’ll give you some anyway. As Stephanie says in her post, the “Love List” is a list of things that remind why you love you WIP and why should keep pressing forward to make it what you in your heart believe it can be. It’s like a Pro’s list about your book. It’s also a guide to the strongest parts of your book, and can help you focus when you lose your way in rewrites. The “Love List” is your breadcrumbs home.

So, here is my “Love List” for my Manuscript (or what I can say without giving too much away):

A field of Poppies

Fur

Hands

Velvet

The silent child

Moonshine

The Way of the West

Poaching

A beautiful, lopsided face

The smell of her blood

Telling a secret

Lamplight

The Forest

Dangerous kisses

That was fun. Hmm…it also makes me miss my Manuscript, which is just minimized in my dock. I think I’ll open it, just to be close to them.

Road Trip Wednesday

Wednesday, which means it the day to Road Trip with YA Highway. Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and we bloggers link back with our response.

This weeks question, and it’s a good one, is: What music has been your summer soundtrack?

Now, my summer soundtrack consists of the music I listen to when I write. Writing music is a funny animal. It’s music I like, but can’t be distracting, and it has to evoke the mood I am trying to convey in my words. I have listened to a wide variety of stuff — from instrumental film soundtracks, to pop, to moody bluegrass. Here are just a few examples, courtesy YouTube.

 

You get the idea. The mood and tone of my manuscript is not entirely heavy, but the intensity with which she is pursued and with which she must battle is akin to the crashing symbols and abandon of these singers. I used Spotify to make playlists, as well as have access to way more music than I have in my iTunes. Spotify is good for us as writers because the possibilities are limitless, as long as we always remember to support the artists beyond the easy listening of the internet. Uploading these videos got me distracted, what was I doing?— oh, yes, a make-me-gag-synopsis.

Road Trip Wednesday #141

For this weeks Road Trip Wednesday the question is: What was the best book you read in July?

I read two books this last month, excluding my own manuscript twice, one was Literary Fiction and the other YA Fantasy. The first, Bridget Asher’s (one of the pen names Julianna Baggott prints under) The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, and the second was Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo. For me there was no better, but only completely and utterly different. How do you quantify the value of two things that in no way relate to one another? Let’s see if I can.

Time it took to read:

The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted was a slower ride. It wasn’t something to consume quickly. It was like chocolate — or one of the French pastries she talks about in the book. I had to savor my time with it.

Shadow and Bone took me two days. It was rich and full, but the pace was active and the story filled with intrigue.

Narrator:

Both books were written in first person, past tense. The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted is composed in the frazzled voice of Heidi Bartolozzi, a young widow. Shadow and Bone is told from the perspective of Alina, an orphan girl living in a magical offshoot of Russia. Both are strong, flawed, funny women with a lot going on in their lives. Both made me smile. Only one made me cry.

Plot:

The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted follows Heidi to France with her son and niece, on a mission to salvage the families home there and rediscover herself separate from the loss of her husband. Heidi wars with these tasks, often times unwilling to let go of the loss and equally feeling to pull to be renewed.

Shadow and Bone is about the country of Ravka, and how Alina may be the key to saving it from the magical darkness that surrounds it. Her awkward rise to the top, and her sexy though foolish romance with the man who discovered her gift, is captivating.

Character:

The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted is cast beautifully. From Heidi, a ruffled woman in her mid 30s, to Charlotte, the sixteen year old niece with a secret. Her young son, the neurotic and curious Abbott, is deeply compelling. (I am a sucker for sweet, wounded children.) Her romantic, though cold, mother — the matriarch that forces Heidi to confront her loss— is alive on the page. But for me, a woman who really loves her husband, Heidi’s long-dead husband really hit home for me. He’s beautiful, strong, and slightly nerdy. Their romance was genuinely heartbreaking to experience in the context of knowing he was dead.

Shadow and Bone is filled with characters that immediately feel fantastical but human. Alina, as a heroine, is incredibly compelling. Her perspective is sort of cynical, and I kind of love that. Mal, her best friend, is a cunning and genuinely selfless boy she has loved for years in secret. I was drawn the most though to The Darkling, the most powerful man in the kingdom next to the King, and also the most dangerous. Everything about him is sensual and mysterious. There’s also the funny, beautiful friend and the boy she loves. A crazy old woman, beautifully illustrated, as well as a combat teacher modeled — it would seem — after Jackie Chan.

So, overall, which is the best? I’m still undecided. They serve very different purposes and create totally different emotions in me. It’s an example of why it’s so important to read in different genres. Each genre has something brilliant to offer.

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