Structure Mountain (when planning to adapt literally anything)

Welcome back! I hope you all had a great Christmas and a happy New Year (even though it’s nearly the end of January). This is my next blog that may seem like I’m talking at you, but hopefully this might actually help those who wish to adapt from one medium to another, for example novel to Film adaptation. I’ll give a few steps, but step two onwards you can do in any order that works for you,


This is the kinda crucial step for whenever you’re adapting anything. You will need to read the original material as much as you can. If you’re adapting a novel, that will mean reading that so many times you know the story inside and out. As it’s me, I’m cheating that I’m adapting my own novel (which will hopefully soon be published) so I know that story better than anyone, especially the characters. As soon as you think you know the story well enough, make sure you still have it at hand for the next stages.


This bit may take a while if you’re still getting used to the story, but it is worth it. All writers who adapt things will all go through the same process. The question to ask is which characters need to stay because they affect the plot. It would be strange if they’d tried to adapt Harry Potter and they ended up saying ‘We don’t need Harry Potter.’ It just wouldn’t happen, or so you’d hope. As a writer you have to find which characters wouldn’t be needed because they’re just there. Sometimes if there are traits of characters that need to stay in somehow, there are some writers who have the skill to combine them into one character. This will also give you an idea of a cast size for later.


This is when the knowledge of the text really comes in handy. You need to plan out what happens in the right order for it to make sense. As an example, in Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief they have the order of how Percy’s travels go in order that is what is in the books. I know a lot of people slate the film so much, but the important thing is there is some kind of structure to it so it then does make sense. If there is no kind of structure for you to add to with the rest of the story, the script will fall flat. This is also to help you shape the world you are putting the story into. Make sure you have an idea of the world to know what is possible and what isn’t, like in Percy Jackson they have the various creatures that are in Greek mythology as close to their descriptions as possible, especially with the Hydra.


This bit will always feel a bit like a drag, but the way I found getting round this was finding the easiest bit to do first. For me, adapting my novel to script format, I was struggling with the outline in one thousand five hundred words, so I moved straight to the scene by scene synopsis. This was able to give me the chance to get all the scenes I knew were able to go in were written down into some kind of format. I could also see how the structure of the overall script was going to go. I would get to the end of the whole script and then go over the scenes to see which ones I actually needed and if I could move some of the sections into different scenes to still get that information across. It can be taxing, but it’s so worth it at the end. It will then help you get an idea of the outline for you to write as part of the bible for the piece (the bible is where all the character bios, world info, etc goes for you to refer back to when you get stuck).


This is the favourite bit, at least to me. This is the part where you finally get to write it. It may have been a long haul to get to the stage you’re at, but it was worth it. You got an idea of where the story was going. Still having the text with you, just in case you wish to use the actual dialogue in certain places, it’s always good to be prepared and just write. The first draft will be hard to write, but when you’ve done it, leave it for about a month or so until you go in for draft two and onwards to various other drafts. Then you will have a script you will feel is ready to go out to the world.


I hope this plan is helpful to you and that you find your own writing style and rhythm. I wish you luck on writing your script and that it is what you hope it to be.


Abbie Allen


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