Monday, June 03, 2013

How Would You Make the Movie of Your Book?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

I have a fun guest post up today over at The Girl blog on turning The Shifter into a movie (complete with cast, directors, and soundtrack, so pop on over and check it out). Explaining why I chose someone got me thinking about how this could be a useful writing tool. Deciding who would play who or who would direct forced me to think about aspects of my novel in a way I'd never done before.

Actors, directors, producers, even musicians, all have styles and themes they bring to their projects. Realizing a certain person would be perfect for your novel can help you pinpoint those same aspects in your own work.

For example, you'd probably not want Quentin Tarantino to direct your teen love story. And if you do, that says a lot about the type of story you're writing.

Who Would Play Your Characters?

Casting your characters can help you visualize their physical aspects as well as personality traits. If you know an actor is perfect for a role, try looking deeper at why. What about that person so perfectly portrays your character? Is it a physical element? A personality quick?

My protagonist, Nya, has always been hard to cast for me. But when I did this post, I found a wonderful young actress who fit her, and it was her eyes that sold her on the role. There was a sadness to them that captured Nya's loss, yet a strength that also kept her going.

While you don't want to copy someone else's character, choosing an actor can make you think about what's unique or important about your characters. What that one trait might be that sets them apart from the others. What you'd tell an actor about them so that person could better play the role.

Who Would Write the Screenplay?

Many might want to write their own screenplay, but if you had to pick someone else, who would that be and why? What about that writer's style or strength made you pick them? Are those aspects of your novel you want to develop further? Themes you want to deepen?

Who Would Direct?

Directors often bring a specific look and feel to their work. (It's easy to spot a Tim Burton film.) They tell tales in ways that could hint at how you'd want to tell your story. Personal journeys in epic, sweeping landscapes? Maybe you'd choose Peter Jackson. High-powered action and plot-focused? You could be looking at Michael Bay. On the flip side, if you think Michael Bay is the man for you, then odds are you have a big, summer-blockbuster-action-movie-style story going on.

Who Would Produce?

This one might be harder to answer, since few non-movie buffs are likely know what a producer does let alone know any names. These folks are a bit like which publishing house you might want, which could tell you your genre or market. Are you more the traditional house, or an edgier imprint? Different publishers have different flairs, and if you know you'd want X house, then you might decide to play up elements that fit that house better. (Quick note: I'm not saying write for a particular publisher, just that thinking about where your book would go could help when you're revising, writing, or polishing to bring out things you always wanted in the book but might not have been able to identify or verbalize)

Who Would be on the Soundtrack?

Some writers already have soundtracks for their novels (or at least have playlists they listened to a lot to get into the vibe of the book while writing it). Thinking about the music can help you decide on tone and mood. Music is evocative, and the emotions that come to you when you listen to a specific song or band can be translated into how you describe your scenes.

And my favorite...

What Would the Movie Tagline Be?

The perfect way to think about your hook. A movie tagline hits that one "oooo" factor line that captures what's awesome about the film. It makes you want to see it, just like a hook makes you want to read a book. Studying taglines isn't a bad way to train yourself to think about novel hooks.

This movie technique might not be for everyone, but if you've hit a wall in your story or other brainstorming techniques haven't worked so well, give this one a try. I can even see it being useful after a first draft, when you have the basics down and might be looking for ways to flesh it out or deepen aspects of it.

Who would you pick to do your novel as a movie?


  1. Oh, isn't it fun to dream things like this? I'd have to start to watch more movies to have any idea of a good director, actor, etc.

  2. Producer: Brian Grazer.

    A beautiful mind. American gangster. 24. Lie to me (TV). Friday Night Lights. Shark. Cinderella Man.

    I can almost see his touch.

    And of course I have my ideal cast for the movie version and I'm trying to finish this before they get too old!

    Doesn't everybody have photos they've collected to see what their characters look like? Not all of us can be artists - writers come from different parts of the brain.

  3. Not sure how I would make themovie of my book, but I would have Kate Winslet in the main role >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  4. I love thinking about this sort of thing. I had James Macevoy in mind for Nathan Shepherd at one stage.

    I think Joss Whedon might be a good as a director. He can shoot good action along with solid character-development scenes.

    I think I'd want New Line or Legendary to produce it.

    As for the music, film scores are a passion of mine, and for that gifted mix of personality-filled motifs and sweeping themes, I'd have to pick Alan Silvestri.

  5. I have my leads cast with a couple of actors who I think could look good together onscreen and it's easy to see and hear them while I'm writing. Neither is overly famous but they're both favorites of mine.

    I also have an iTunes playlist with my novel's title so I can build the soundtrack in my head. It's nice to have someone to see and hear, and some mood music for them to play against.

    Writer, director and producer is a little outside my realm right now...

  6. I keep thinking of someone like Tom Cruise for my MC, but not him specifically. The, no idea.

    The playlist runs to a lot of 80s, AWOLNATION, and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

  7. Natalie, lots of fun. I'm a huge movie buff, so it's like double the fun :) Pick one night a week for movie night, hehe.

    Liebjabberings, I can already tell the tone of your book by your producer. And I bet it's strong in the work, too! It's funny, I have more photos of the world than the people.

    CA Heaven, fun!

    Paul, nice. I wouldn't have picked him for Nathan, but hearing you say that I think, yeah, he'd work. Silvestri's great.

    Eva, nothing wrong with non-famous folk. They bring less of "themselves" to their roles :)

    Rachel6, great playlist!

  8. I love all of this movie business. (Naturally.) And you're so right, Janice! Every artist brings something new.

    It's always wonderful to see a fitting book adaptation. :)

  9. Elyana, they can work really well together as well. One of my favorites it's still ET. The book version has scenes from the dog's POV, and you can picture the movie fun as you read it.

  10. I wrote fanfic for 15 years, for print zines, and casting my characters is second nature to me. In fact, my characters come to me when I'm inspired by an actor. Every major character and some of the minor ones are all cast and I keep photo files to help me describe them as I suck at descriptions because I really don't visualize from the written word.

    I never thought about the rest. I guess I consider myself producer, director, etc. ;)

  11. Shelly, nice! A whole character database to draw from. That must make it a lot easier.

  12. It really does. So I guess my stories are character-based. :)

  13. Shelly, sounds like it. At the very least you'll know them well before you start writing.

  14. The main character in my book is my 103 year old mother - an artist and free spirit who could not be dreamed up even in your wildest fantasies. Luckily I have her on video You need to paste this link in your browser to see her

  15. Don't know if this is casting but I have a weirder method cause due to my passion of anime, my brain can't help but visualize them as anime characters and at times, resemble existing anime characters so I usually use that as a base and modify them to fit my novel and to make it unique and at least more original also to make it more realistic since anime character sometimes have unrealistic hair colors, shapes and hair length and eye colors.

    1. Close enough to work :) It's the same general principle.

  16. Okay, I'm late to this party, but... Thanks, Janice. Good suggestions, here. My MS began as a screenplay. (I worked in Hollywood, ages ago, and know script needs & format.) The film scenes have been in my head from the beginning, so learning to write it as a BOOK (which I've never done) was the hard part! Would have been easier for me to write the screenplay, then adapt to a book.