The Novice Screenwriter

Yes, it’s 2016, and I am writing a movie script. Not for the Novice Master, whose fate at this point is completely uncertain (and I see that as more of an HBO series than a feature film–lol!) but for my young-adult historical novel, The Raven Girl. It is such a pleasure to slip back into medieval Ireland, and revisit what I must admit is my favorite book of all that I’ve written, the tale of the mysterious dark-haired girl who turns up on a remote island off the coast of western Eire. This book was born during a family ‘roots’ visit to Ireland a few years ago (Though my grandmother was from Yorkshire, her origins lay in County Mayo) I was so taken by the beauty of Western Ireland that I decided I had to use it as a setting for something. In Galway, my dad and I visited the little historical museum by the Spanish Arch, where we learned to our surprise that Columbus had visited Galway a few years before deciding to sail west and discover you-know-what. And further research showed that while in Galway, Columbus—and he noted this himself, in one of his own books—saw two people being pulled out of a dugout canoe in Galway Bay. They were, alas, dead, but Columbus told of their ‘remarkable’ features—“Surely they are from Cathay!” All that got me thinking about what might happen if a live Native American girl somehow ended up in fifteenth-century Ireland—think about all that lore and superstition, what would they think of her?

The Raven Girl was pretty successful as far as self-published books go—if it had been published by a traditional publisher, it would probably be judged a failure, with only a few thousand copies sold. But I got terrific reviews for it, and a number of readers kept telling me they thought it should be a movie. Maybe an independent film rather than a blockbuster feature film, but still…I even had one semi-famous author try to convince his own agent to take it on as a possible screen project, but that agent sniffed that he did not handle ‘children’s projects.’ His loss! So I’ve decided to tackle it myself. I have NEVER written a script before, so there’s a huge learning curve. Frank gave me The Screenwriter’s Bible for Christmas, so I am tutoring myself in the art of screenwriting. In one way, it is very similar to constructing a novel, but so different in other ways: Everything is much more visual, and ideas have to be construed with as few words as possible. And the format is quite unforgiving, but I think I’m picking it up—I have the first scene down already! If there are any other screenwriters out there, I’d appreciate some helpful hints and tips.

If you are not familiar with The Raven Girl novel, I advise you to wait until Saint Patrick’s Day—for the past few years, I’ve been offering a day-long free giveaway of the Kindle version on Amazon. I’ll also be doing a Goodreads giveaway of the printed book as well this March. Or, you could always just go and buy it! It’s still for sale in both formats.

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