The Writers' Hangout

A weekly podcast by two authors who discuss writing, screenwriting, film, and life.

Episode 2: Trials and Tribulations in Screenwriting – Part 1

In Episode 2 of Writers’ Hangout, Randall talks about why he was banned from the set of the movie he wrote, and John talks about filmmakers using short screenplays as a business cards. They also discuss adapting novels to screenplays.

Read the article Randall talks about during the podcast: “Writers in Hollywood,” Raymond Chandler, November 1945. Click here to go to the article at The Atlantic.

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94 Comments

  1. Loved hearing your thoughts on screenwriting and how Hollywood seems to have its own agenda beyond telling good stories.

    Can you think of any good adaptions of a novel to the big screen (or even the little screen)? By good, I mean the basic story and characters were retained and it did the novel justice.

    • thewritershangout

      March 29, 2015 at 12:56 am

      Hi, Brian. Great question! I will opt to talk about a not-so-long-ago television series Dexter, but just book one and the first season, though I enjoyed the entire series. I liked Jeff Lindsay’s book Darkly Dreaming Dexter. But what I felt was a deficit in the book (a deficit by design, not a negative) I found in the television series in bucket loads: emotion. In the book, Dexter’s narrative affect (first person POV) is stoic. The range of emotion he experiences is severely limited, which was great for making you feel you were in the mind of a sociopath. The television series, however, introduced us to many well cast characters, and each of them seemed to wear their emotions on their sleeves. This offered a powerful contrast for Dexter. Additionally, I came to care for many more characters in the television series than in the book. The book kept characters at a distance. I feel the television show did what a great story should: tug and twist and beat at your emotions until you’re exhausted and want nothing more than to curl up in a ball and wait for the next installment. I did not feel the same way reading the book.
      When a novel is brought to the screen, it should add something to story, not just play with the plot or characters. Dexter the television series added a new layer to Dexter’s life and our understanding of his world. This added depth is why I think it is a good adaptation.
      By the way, when I was writing this reply, I realized Lindsay used the word darkly in his title. I makes me thinks of Phillip K. Dicks’s novel A Scanner Darkly. I wonder if he chose darkly because of the similarity between Dexter and Dicks’s protagonist, Bob Arctor. Both are associated with law enforcement. Both lead double lives. Both have significant emotional deficits. I find that interesting. If I ever meet Lindsay, I’ll have to ask him if there is a connection. –John Fortunato

      • Thanks for replying John.

        From what you’ve said, I’m definitely interested in reading Lindsay’s book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter. I absolutely loved the first season. I definitely remember feeling exhausted watching the show. So much killing happening and everyone wondering who was doing it, and all along, Dexter just casual as ever. His casual nature is what made the show creepy for me.

        I might have to look the show up again and finish it since I had been watching it on netflix and only got up to season 3 before I canceled netflix. Now there’s something like eight seasons, so lots of catch up on.

        One of the shows I’ve been watching, which I struggle with in regards to really enjoying the adapation and the reason I asked the question, is a Game of Thrones. I had actually watched the show first then got into the books, but unlike Dexter where I felt like I could watch the show just fine without the books (which I wasn’t aware of until now), Game of Thrones the TV show, despite the great performances from the actors and the overall beauty of the story, always feels like it’s missing mark on allowing me to connect to the characters. Like I said the actors themselves often do a great job, but the way they cut the scenes together and how much they leave out (now that I’ve read the books I’m like ok, now I understand that significance), I’ve always felt like the subplots (which are so important in A Song of Ice and Fire) were convuluted, and now seems like they were just playing with the plot and characters without adding anything significant.

        I wonder if some books are just too big to adapt, at least in the current environment of tv and movie costs. I remember reading that the GoT showrunners said that they only have enough money to do 10 episodes, while Martin wanted 13. Perhaps those extra 3 episodes each season would have made a difference, I dont know. Certainly wouldn’t have hurt.

        Anyways, thanks a lot for sharing your insight.

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