"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser


In our never-ending search for novels that can be made into films, we are constantly disappointed by books that could have been, but aren’t, movie material because the author wasn’t thinking about the needs of the motion picture medium when constructing his or her book. Here are my top five considerations for “writing your novel to be a film”:

1) A CASTABLE PROTAGONIST. Movies require a character interesting enough to hold our attention for two hours, and the stronger the character the more likely it is that a bankable star will want to play it. Bankable stars are primarily male, and in the age range of 30-60.

2) A CLEAR THREE-ACT STRUCTURE. That’s what keeps us watching—a powerful beginning that hooks our attention, a second act that never lets it go, and a climactic third act that leaves us with a resounding feeling of finality.

3) AN AMERICAN CENTER. Stories with foreign settings and concerns are made into movies of course—but not every day, and not regularly by the big studios. “The Bourne Identity” takes place all over the world, but its primary character and concerns are American-centered.

4) ACTION. Novels that are primarily introspective are difficult, if not impossible, to make into films. Make sure your book drives your characters into meaningful action, in which they change for better or worse.

5) AN IMPORTANT SUBJECT MATTER. “To write a mighty book,” Melville says in Moby Dick, “you must have a mighty theme.” Moviemakers love larger-than-life stories, ones that will capture the imagination of the global marketplace.

Next time you sit down to plan your novel, confer with me before you make a decision that will preclude it from being a Hollywood film!

1 comment:

Kim H Peres said...

You are right to say these things will help a novel better translate to a film, but if the novel is just a movie in a book why not go right to a screenplay.

I guess I would hope that these principles could be incorporated into a novel in such a way as to not take away the novel's strength of portraying internal conflict in lieu of treating the novel as an expanded movie script.