Read Screenplays to Understand How Books Become Movies

Most novelists – new and old – hope to have a novel adapted for the big screen or even small screen (TV). The process is sometimes quite long and involved, so the focus of this post will not be on selling or optioning your work. Instead, the focus will be on reading screenplays, which are a different kind of art form and prose.

To read a screenplay, you will need a basic knowledge of filmmaking terms. Movie Outline offers a listing that should suffice.

Reading a screenplay is not like reading a novel. It requires reading the directions in them and imagining the dialogue and setting of a movie. Over time and with practice, you will be able to read one without interruption or frustration.

To find screenplays to read, visit The Daily Script and Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb) to locate and download (for free) movie and TV scripts.

Follow these suggestions to make it a more pleasurable experience.

  1. Choose a novel you’ve read that has been adapted for the screen. For example, Toni Morrison’s Beloved. You can find the screenplay here.
  2. Watch the movie.
  3. Read the screenplay.

What you will note are three different and distinct versions of the story. That is the nature of screenplays. How many times have you read a book and watched the movie and said, “I like the book better”? Well, screenwriting seeks to adapt a novel for the technical standards of film or TV. Parts will be missing, dialogue changed, and characters omitted in an effort to tell the story for a viewing audience.

Many people want their works on TV or in movie theaters but they don’t understand the mechanics. Here is a way for you to get a taste of your future should your book’s rights be optioned.

Remember we are stretching in 2016, so reach for what you want. Read about screenwriting basics here and here. And let me know if you’d like to see your novel become a movie in the comments.

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