I want to welcome Mark Hosack to Books R Us. Mark is the author of the thriller Identity which will be released August 7th by Pocket Star. Thanks for stopping by.
Book vs Script
Back in late 2008, I was beaten black and blue, gagged and bound to a merry-go-round, and girding myself to take a knife to the heart. Thomas Jane, the best of the Punishers and star of the TV show Hung, was standing behind me, wearing a trench coat and fedora, finishing a cigar. He looked at me, then said, "Bet you never thought you'd end up here."
He was right.
The director yelled action, the merry-go-round spun, an assassin (dressed as a catholic school girl), threw a knife into my chest and Thomas Jane shook me, screaming the lines I wrote for him, "Who grabbed ya, Sammy?! Who grabbed ya?!"
I don’t get much out before dying, spitting a mouthful of fake blood down my shirt.
"Give em Hell, Malone" -- It was my first real film to be produced. Fast forward three years and my first real book, IDENTITY, is being published on August 7th. The screenplay vs the book. My experiences writing them were more similar than different—despite my cameo on that merry-go-round—and I’ll tell you why.
When I began writing books, I wanted to write the great American novel. So I produced a 120,000 word satiric “masterpiece” and took it to a weeklong writing conference, quite sure of myself. It was literature. It was about character and themes—it was very different from a plain old boring nuts and bolts script. But, as I settled down at the conference and looked to our first lecturer, I heard him say this:
"I want you to think of your book as a movie."
I’d just spent a year of my life writing literature!!!
I didn't hear much else. I was busy internally cussing the man out. But what the lecturer said rang true. And as I continued to write, I realized that films and television have dramatically altered the way we digest stories—including books. Just look to the classics: could Melville publish Moby Dick today unscathed? Maybe, but probably not. Of course, he could upload it to Amazon, but would such a “bloated” book rise to the top? When it had to keep compete with Fifty Shades of Grey? Ahab is obsessed with a white sperm whale, but is that sexy enough to get through all the Ishmael stuff?
A screenplay is the blueprint for a movie. It doesn't include a character's thoughts or unspoken motives--in a script, the story unfolds by character action and dialogue only. That sort of tapering pares a story down to its bare mechanics—it makes it very efficient. And efficiency is gripping. Why? Because something new is presented in each scene, which keeps us wondering, “what’s going to happen next?” Let’s say we’re writing a spy thriller, book or script, and our spy, exhausted from killing bad guys and sleeping with beautiful women all night, sits down on a bench to have a quick think and ends up falling asleep—realistic enough. A spy’s gotta sort things out. A spy’s gotta snooze. But we all agree that it’s boring. However, if our hero sits down to think, falls asleep and never wakes up because he’s really dead—suddenly, we’ve got ourselves a compelling scene—and we still managed to get our “realistic” ingredients in. It’s gripping because it’s physical—it’s action—and not just an occurrence in the character’s head.
In short, something happened.
The general rule of a script is if a scene doesn’t progress the plot or central character arc, you cut it. I applied this mindset when I sat down to write my novel, IDENTITY. Every chapter advances the plot. In fact, every chapter ends much as I end a scene in a script, with a mini-cliffhanger. I steered away from asides. If I really wanted one, I kept it, but I also made it matter. Nothing is extraneous and everything counts. All of this led to the sale of my first book, which also led me to this general conclusion: efficiency is king in both screenplays and novels … and Melville can blame movies for that one.
IDENTITY, Mark's first novel, will be released by Pocket Star, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, on August 7th. You can Pre-order it now for a special sale price of $1.99 at: amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and iTunes.com.
Also, you can win a free Kindle or Nook Touch by entering our IDENTITY giveaway. Please sign up and help spread the word!
About the Book:
The corporate greed of Wall Street meets the Hitchcockian suspense of North by Northwest in this thrilling debut by screenwriter Mark Hosack.