Friday, June 19, 2015

Oh, how cruel we are to our characters

When you’re a writer and your writer friend is critiquing your screenplay and points out that it needs something dramatic to happen in the first half of episode two (a failing which you’d already spotted), you find yourself sending emails with subject titles like  “Septicaemia looks fruitful.” 

Adapting a novel into a TV serial – which is what I’m doing at the moment – is a huge challenge and I am loving it. I have learned such a lot since I started, too many to list here. One thing, though, is an appreciation of why so many adaptations stray from the book because telling a story on screen differs so hugely from telling a story in a novel. And related to this, I’ve learned why the literary agent who loved BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU said:

“I think you're a wonderful writer and the novel is lovely - clever, funny, subtle, wry, sad and uplifting all at once. I ADORE Sol”

but also said:

“I also think it won't be easy to sell this quiet, delicately nuanced novel in which nothing much (other than Life!) happens in our current horrible publishing landscape.”

My novel IS quiet. I realise that fully now that I am trying to keep the errant viewer from switching to another channel because nothing is happening apart from Sol sounding off and being hilarious.

So watch out when the story hits your TV screen – one of the extra plot points could well be an emergency dash to hospital. Eat your heart out, Sally Wainwright.

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