Frank Center Lobby dedication to Scott Beard - April 1st!
Write Your Novel to Be a Film by Kenneth Atchity
Novelists seeking representation complain that none of their books have been made into films. At any given moment, we have literally stacks of novels from New York publishers on our desks in Los Angeles. Going through them to find the ones that might make motion pictures or television movies, we — and other producers, managers, and agents — are constantly running into the same problems:
“There’s no third act... It just trickles out.”
“There are way too many characters and it’s not clear till page 200 who the protagonist is.”
“I can’t relate to anyone in the book.”
“At the end, the antagonist lays out the entire plot to the protagonist.”
“There’s not enough action.”
“There’s nothing new here. This concept has been used to death.”
“We don’t know who to root for.”
“The whole thing is overly contrived.”
“There’s no dialogue, so we don’t know what the character sounds like.”
“There’s no high concept here. How do we pitch this?”
“There’s no real pacing.”
“The protagonist is reactive instead of proactive.”
“At the end of the day, I have no idea what this story is about.”
“The main character is 80, and speaks only Latvian.”
“It’s set in Papago...in the 1960s, and is filled with long passages in Uto-Aztecan.”
“There are no set pieces.”
Of course anyone with the mind of a researcher can list a film or two that got made despite one of these objections. But for novelists who are frustrated at not getting their books made into films, that should be small consolation and is, practically speaking, a useless observation. Yes, you might get lucky and find a famous Bulgarian director, who’s fascinated with the angst of octogenarians, studied pacing with John Sales or Jim Jarmusch, and loves ambiguous endings.
But if you regard your career as a business instead of a quixotic crusade, you should be planning your novel from the outset to make it appealing to filmmakers.
Give us a strong (preferably male) lead who, good or bad, is eminently relatable — and who’s in the “star age range” of 35-50 (where at any given moment 20 male stars reside; a star being a name that can set up the film by his attachment to it).
Make sure a dramatist looking at your book will clearly see three well-defined acts: act one (the setup), act two (rhythmic development, rising and falling action), and act three (climax leading to conclusive ending).
Express your character’s personality in dialogue that distinguishes him, and makes him a role a star would die to play.
Have someone in the film industry read your synopsis before you commit to writing the novel.
Though I’ve observed the phenomena for several decades now, it still surprises me that even bestselling novelists, even the ones who complain that no one has made a film from their books yet, don’t write novels dramatic enough to lend themselves easily to mainstream film. It’s a well-known phenomenon in publishing that, with very few exceptions, the more books a novelist sells the less critical his publisher’s editors are of his work. So time and again we read novels that start out well, roar along to the halfway point, then peter off into the bogs of formless character development or action resolution.
A publisher invests between $25,000 and $100,000 or more in publishing your novel. A low-budget feature film from a major Hollywood studio today costs at least $40 million. There is, from a business point of view, no comparison. Risking $40 million means the critical factor is raised as high as can be imagined when your book hits the “story department” — much higher than the critical factor of even the finest publishers. Hollywood studies what audiences want by logging, in box office dollars, cents, and surveys, what they respond best to.
If you want to add film to your profit centers as a novelist, it would behoove you to study what makes films work. Disdaining Hollywood may be a fashionable defense for writers who haven’t gotten either rich or famous from it, but it’s not productive in furthering your cinematic career.
Guest Post: HOOKED ON ROMANCE (WRITING) by Alan B. Gibson
Alan B. Gibson inks a four book deal with Robin Cutler and LMBPN World Wide Publishing!
I confess. I wrote Summer Thunder on a bet, and the stakes were high. My reputation was on the line.
It was cold and damp that March evening in Scotland when I joined a group of colleagues around the fireplace. We’d wrapped up a full day of workshops and classes at a writers’ conference, and we were doing what authors do best–sitting around talking about writing.
The conversation wandered to poking fun at genres other than our own. Most of them wrote crime. I’d been writing horror/thrillers, and apparently, I made a disparaging comment about how much easier it would be to write a romance or a fantasy.
“You wouldn’t know where to start,” said someone, (a friend?).
Encouraged by three fingers of whiskey I took her insult as a dare and doubled down, suggesting that not only was I capable of writing a romance novel, I could write a romance fantasy.
“Pfft!” I said. “I’ve even got the plot.”
I didn’t know the first thing about writing romance novels, and to the best of my recollection, I’d never read one. Stunned that after all those years of teaching and practicing yoga I could still let my ego get the best of me, I shut up and blamed my impulsiveness on the whiskey.
“So, tell us!” The woman who goaded me was my good friend, or so I thought, and I made a mental note to get back at her one day.
I had just fallen into a gigantic hole that I’d dug myself. With only seconds to climb out, I reached not very far back in my brain to an area of expertise that hadn’t failed me––a lifetime career in advertising pitching to clients.
I stood up. “Okay. A beautiful woman with lots of personal baggage sells fairy figurines in her shop at a Renaissance Festival. A mysterious, hot surfer guy walks in looking to buy fairy dust. Turns out he is an actual fairy prince, and his kingdom recently ran out. Naturally, the encounter changes both of their lives.”
“That could work,” said a publisher friend with the credentials to know. “But set it in on a beach in California instead. You’ve always got to think about the movie.”
On the spot I created a fictional beach boardwalk. I kept the fairy prince, but now in this revised version he also happens to be a champion kite surfer. The story was writing itself, and on the plane home the following day I scribbled plot and character notes. For the next few months, I was obsessed with writing the story I entitled Summer Thunder.
Nobody was as surprised as I that putting that first book together got me hooked. I had so much fun, I couldn’t stop, and I wrote three more.
If you enjoyed reading about Lily and Theos’s magical romance in Summer Thunder, I believe you’ll want to find out what happens to her best friend Greta the Witch and her run-in with a rival witch, Zsa Zsa Hadju in Summer Storm. Summer Lightning, and Summer Cyclone complete the four-book Romance/Fantasy series, Magic at Myers Beach.
Summer Thunder will always have a special place in my heart, too, because my life partner of 31 years, read the manuscript the day before he unexpectedly died, and one of the last things he said to me was how much he loved the story and how proud he was that I’d written it.
I appreciate feedback, so please visit me with your comments. I’m easy to find because I’m all over the place.
YOU CAN PRE-ORDER THE eBOOK HERE.
NEW From Story Merchant Books Ken Atchity's My Southren Belle
A.M.Adair's Shadow War Winner in the Action/Adventure category of the 2023 Independent Press Awards!
FROM US NAVY AUTHOR A.M. ADAIR
Author A. M. Adair is an active-duty Chief Warrant Officer in the United States Navy with over 20 years in the Intelligence Community. Her experiences have been unique and provided her imagination with a wealth of material to draw from to give her stories life. A lifelong fan of the genre, her debut novel, Shadow Game, is the first book in The Elle Anderson Series, and was turned into a graphic novel in January 2022. Book two, The Deeper Shadow, was released in November 2020, and the explosive third installment, Shadow War, is coming March 2022.
Cajun Wit and Wisdom: an interview with Ken Atchity Humor & Health Journal
As I grew around my mother’s French Louisiana Family on a farm near Eunice I started collecting sayings and stories I heard from family members and other people in Louisiana. Especially the hunting stories and jokes my uncles told. I’ve always thought that the Cajuns have a unique way of looking at life and wanted to put it together in one place.
Let me mention some subjects and let you give an explanation of what they mean in Cajun culture.
Cajuns are people who enjoy every moment of life. They aren’t city planners, architects, or engineers. They’re country people. Their thing is living in the moment. The greatest celebration of the moment on a daily basis is meals. Cajuns have an incredible zest about eating and putting their energy into food. They love texture, which is why they like spicy food and all kinds of food that has a lot of surface to it. Cajun philosophy center around the kitchen and around eating. As far as Cajuns are concerned, if you haven’t eaten with someone, you don’t know them.
Dancing is another example of living in the moment and celebrating life. What’s amazing when you go to Louisiana is that you see the oldest people dancing. People in there nineties will be out in the dance floor kicking up a storm. People of all ages go to the dance halls. So the dance hall is another place where Cajun culture comes together to celebrate the energy of life. One of the famous clubs is Fred’s in Mamou. If you walk in at 11 o’ clock on Saturday morning you’d find the place already hopping. The truth is that it’s all the people from the night before who are still there. Since there are no windows in the place no one has any idea or cares what time it is.
Jokes, stories, and conversations are all a celebration of life and obviously the best place to do that is over a meal or a cup of coffee. Coffee is a central part of Cajuns culture. It’s a time to stop and talk. You don’t drink coffee while working.
Cajuns like to talk and tell stories. One of my uncles in Louisiana still resents the telephone. He thinks that if people want to talk with you, they should drive over to your place. Then you’ll know it’s important and you’ll stop what you’re doing to have a talk.
As a kid I remember sitting on the front porch in rocking chairs and endlessly listening to my uncles, grandfather, and grandmother telling stories and talking. That’s what I go home to Louisiana for now. I need the fix- to be with people who know how to talk.
One time I went on a fishing trip with my Uncle Wib. We got up at three A.M. to go down to Grand Isle and we never stopped talking. We were supposed to get there by sunrise. At 10 o’clock I pointed that out. He said ‘Oh my God, I took the wrong road at Thibodaux five hours back.’ We were so deep in conversation that we forgot about everything else.
To Cajuns nothing is more important than communication. We get so busy in our modern world that we don’t really have time to talk with each other – everything is oriented toward efficiency and arranged in bytes. Just enough is said to get by. But to Cajuns talking is an art.
What is your next Cajun book?
It is similar to Cajun Household Wisdom except it’s about the kitchen and eating. It’s called Cajun Kitchen Wisdom and has recipes for smothered chicken, lima beans and lots more. It contains sayings that have to do with the kitchen. One is “If de gumbo is good, you can put up with de cook.’ It also presents fishing and farming stories. The thing about Cajun humor is that much of it is about fishing or farming stories. The White Mule stories are prime examples of farming tales.
One of my favorite White Mule stories will appear in the next book, Cajun Kitchen Wisdom.
It goes like this: A stranger walks into a bar in Abbeville and takes a seat. Halfway through his Jax, he pulls a huge tomato out of the paper bag he carried in, and sets it on the counter. The bartender sees him do it, but doesn’t even stop wiping his glasses. The man at the other end of the bar doesn’t come over either.
So the stranger asks, “Y’all see dis tomata?’
The other two men nod.
“Sacre blue du couyon,” the stranger says. “Have you ever seed a tomata as dis heah?’
The other two men move over politely to take a closer look. The man who was at the far stool lifts the tomato, palms it, smells it, rubs it, smells his finger, then puts it back on the bar. The bartender doesn’t even bother to do the same. He just exchanges glances with the other man.
“Well?’ demands the stranger.
‘Well, ah foh one siurley have,’ says the man from the other stool.
The stranger can’t believe his ears but the other man tells him to wait. He goes outside, then comes back in, straining as he carries the biggest, most gigantic tomato the stranger’s even seen in his life – it has to weigh over ten pounds! The man places the tomato on the counter, and the stranger can’t resist touching it, smelling it, stroking it’s skin. Sheepishly, he puts his tomato back into its bag.
“Okay,” he says to the man.
“You got ta tell me, yah. What is yo’ secret?”
“Did you see dat white mule tied up outside?” the other man asks.
“Yah, ah sawed it,” the stranger nods.
“Well it’s dat mule.” “Ah doan unnerstand,” says the stranger.
“Dere’s nuttin’ ta understand,” the other man explains.
“Everybod ‘roun heah knows about it” – he looks at the bartender, who nods for confirmation.
“When ah go out ta ready my ground for plantin’, dat white mule pulls mah plow. When ah’m plantin’, dat white mule pulls de cultivator- an’ when ah’m harvestin’ –“
“How much you recon’ you wan’ foh dat mule?” the other man breaks in.
“I had date mule foh ten years now,” the other man says. “Date mule’s not foh sale.”
“Ah’ll give you a hunnert dollars cash for dat mule raht now,” says the stranger, plunking the gold coins down on the counter.
The other man looks at the coins for a second. “A hunnert dollars?” he says.
The stranger’s jubilant, but the man who sold the mule says, “Would you min’ if ah deliever him ta you in the mohnin? Dat mule was mah fren,’ and ah’d lake to let mah wife ‘n kids say good-bye to him properly.”
“No problem,” says the other man, and leaves the bar whistling.
But the first man got himself a real run of bad luck. First of all, he stays at the bar and gets caught in a bouree’ game- and lost the hundred dollars. Second of all, when he wakes up the next mroing, and went to his barn to get the mule ready to deliever he finds the mule dead as a doornail on the barn floor.
He felt real bad about that, real bad- especially because he didn’t have the hundred dollars to repay the stranger. But after awhile he got to thikin’ and realized that, as the saying goes, “a deal is a deal.” So he loaded the mule on his wagon, and headed for the other man’s farm. He parked the wagon down the road a bit and walked up to the house, where the man was waiting for him on his porch.
“I got some bad news for you, an’ some moh bad news,” the first man says.
“What’s de bad news?” asks the stranger.
“Well you ‘member dat hunnert dollars you gave me las’ night for det mule? Ah got mahself caught in a bouree’ game and ah done las de whole ting.”
“Well dat surely is bad news,” the stranger agreed. “Dat’s real bad news. Ah feel rela badly foh you, losing dat money, sha.”
“But the other bad news is dat the mule you bought – ah found him daid in mah barn dis nohnin.”
Now the stranger understood the gravity of the situation all too well, and why the first man felt so bad. But he got to thiking, and realized to himself, “a deal’s a deal.”
“Let me axe you a question, he finally said. “Whar is dat mule?”
The other man pointed down the road to the wagon. The stranger followed him so he could see for himself. After he was satisfied that it was the same mule he’d bought at the bar he helped the other man unload the mule.
“Jes’ leave him heah.” He said.
The first man said again how bad he felt about the whole thing, and drove off home with a heavy heart.
A few months went by before the first man had the nerve to go back to that bar in Abbeville for a Jax. But one night he did, and there was the stranger.
“Whar yo’ bin?” the sranger said. “I bin watchin’ foh you/”
“To tell ya de trewty. Ah felt so bad ‘bout losin dat money and dat mule dying an’ all, I didn’t have de noive ta see you again.”
“Doan feel bad no mod, the stranger said. “Ever’ting toined out okay.”
“Whatch you mean okay?”
“I held me a raffle and made me a good profit.”
The stranger nodded. “Yah, ah raffled off dat mule. Al sole me two hunnerty tickets foh one dollar each.”
“You raffled off dat daid mule, and you made two hunnert dollars?” The first man was amazed, “and you had all dose folds mad at you?”
“No,” the stranger smiled. “Jes’ one poison was mad yah. But ah gave him his money back!”
These are stories I love. They reflect the culture and the ingenuity of daily life. They say, “If you can find a simple way to do it, find a simple way to do it, find a Cajun and he’ll make it ten times more complicated and you’ll have a lot more fun along the way.”
Kenneth Agillard Atchity is the author of several books including Cajun Household Wisdom: You Know You Still Alive If It’s Costin’ You Money published by Longmeadow Press. At the time of this printing he’s somewhere between Breaux Bridge and Opelousas eating his way across his native state.
Story Merchant Books - March Newsletter