#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 16: Question 13

YES, I KNOW I’M BEHIND. I’M SORRY.

This question’s answer is kind of a long one so though so… that kinda makes up for it, I guess…?

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

13. Your book is now a film. What will work well? What won’t?

Authors notoriously have little power when it comes to adaptions of their books. Cassandra Clare, for example, is occasionally forced to explain how she has absolutely noting to do with the (IMO) terrible adaptions of her work, and I’ve heard some real horror stories from people inside the industry about writers signing away their film rights without financial reimbursement (Cecily von Ziegesar, author of Gossip Girl; L.J. Smith, author of the Vampire Diaries… the latter doesn’t even own the rights to her own book series). As such, I shall begin this blog post with a public service announcement:

Should you ever be lucky enough to get a book signed for publication, take a lawyer in with you when you sign the contract!

Now that’s out of the way…

One of my Beta readers  remarked they could envision The Mayor as a BBC drama quite easily. At its heart The Mayor is essentially an 18th century period drama played out in a fantasy equivalent of the West Indies. Small, seemingly inconsequential actions have a tendency to ripple outwards to large and devastating effect, with a heavy emphasis on political dialogue and interpersonal relationships. That kind of story always works much better on the small screen than in the cinema, and although Part Two abandons the claustrophobic confines of New Hardway in favour of adventure on the high seas, I imagine the small screen is probably where The Mayor would end up should anyone be mad enough to try and adapt it.

So, what do I think would work well?

Costume

Blue CoatBeing an 18th century period drama — one of the prettiest and most extravagant eras in terms of European fashion — there’d be lots of opportunity for lavish, colourful costumes. Hair and make-up would have an absolute field-day with my protagonist Melora’s ringlets, and I’d love to see what wardrobe could produce for my villain’s beautiful blue coat.

My characters also encounter other cultures as they travel further up the map which might be fun to play with, such as the Kintaronese who favour light, loose clothing — shifts and kaftans, made from linen in rich turquoise blues — and adorn themselves with vast arrays of gold-plated jewellery (gold is considered common in Kintaro and thus even the poor dress themselves in this way; they even make their fishing hooks from it!).

Mise En Scene

I have written New Hardway is an aesthetically European town situated in a fantastical West Indies-equivalent known as the Taro Isles. A tropical coastline peppered with rainforests and tortugas, the bright and colourful Taro Isles would stand in direct contrast to New Hardway’s grand and austere architecture. There’s opportunity also to make it look the flora and fauna appear even more fantastical through the use of models or CGI, or both. Then there’s the tall ships, the shipping yard, the marketplace… I can see it all now…

Port Royal

Set pieces

As mentioned above, there’s quite a bit of swashbuckling in Part Two of The Mayor with naval battles, piratical pursuits and life-threatening storms… all of which I imagine would look pretty spectacular on the silver screen. Given even television’s dramatic improvement in recent years (see Game of Thrones, Outlander, Black Sails etc.), I imagine it’d look pretty good on the small screen too.

Sea battle

What won’t work well?

Sexual Content

I’d be very concerned with how TV/film might treat some of the sexual aspects of my book, particularly when it comes to sexual assault. Neither TV nor film have a particularly good history when it comes to depicting such things on screen (especially within an historical or fantastical context, of which my book is both), opting for soft-lightning, inexplicable titillation and absolutely zero consideration for the aftermath such a traumatic event might have. I’d want the filmmakers to give this subject some serious consideration and treat it with the sensitivity it deserves. If that means a fade to black or panning away from the whole thing completely, I’d really rather that than whatever the hell HBO did to poor Daenarys Targaryen (Game of Thrones) and Lucrezia Borgia (The Borgias).

Future filmmakers, take notes from Seasons 1 & 2 of Stars’ Outlander please, both in its depictions of consensual and non-consensual sex. Both, IMO, were excellently done.

My Deutragonist

I asked my writing partner her opinion on this question and the first thing she said was, “Jaspher.” When I asked her to elaborate as I didn’t quite understand, she answered:

“A lot of his appeal comes from how clear it is that he means no harm from his thought process. Take that away and you’ve only got his acts.”

Jaspher CarsonJaspher is a conflicted soul; an undiagnosed melancholic who spends an awful lot of time in his head, turning over endless “what if” scenarios and rationalising them away in his head. He is constantly putting others before himself, including my protagonist, Melora, whom he is helplessly in love with. He puts an enormous amount of pressure on himself to keep his family afloat, and would sooner work himself to an early grave than admit he needs help.

He’s a good man, with the very best and most honourable of intentions. Every choice he makes is clearly driven — in the text — by factors listed above, but he makes mistakes along the way.

And when I say mistakes, I mean serious mistakes.

Big Mistakes.

HUGE.

Without being privy to any of Jaspher’s internal monologue, the audience might perceive Jaspher to be something he isn’t: purposefully controlling, abusive and cowardly. It’s pretty clear from the text that it’s not as black and white as that, but a film might struggle to convey such a thing.

S.E. Berrow

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6 thoughts on “#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 16: Question 13

  1. “A lot of his appeal comes from how clear it is that he means no harm from his thought process. Take that away and you’ve only got his acts.”

    Yes … Put like that it *would* be a challenge. There a number of ways to combat this that range from cheesy to potentially narrative-altering. I think a large part of that would depend on what you can tell through images like the acting chops of Jas’ actor. They arguably would have the toughest job being able to show that complexity of his intentions vs. his actions but done right, you’ll get out the desired nuance.

    Ah, adaptations …

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree that much of this nuance would rest upon the actor, of whom I’ve no doubt would be the hardest to cast for this very reason!

      The best example I’ve seen of managing to convey such complexity and depth of feeling amidst deplorable actions actually took place in a video game – the character of Haytham Kenway in Assassin’s Creed III played by Adrian Hough. Just a small inflection in tone of voice and the odd quirk of expression conveyed multitudes. And the fact this nuance was achieved via motion cap and computer animation (i.e. not live acting) actually blows my tiny little mind a little.

      I’d really love for an unknown to be cast for Jaspher. Someone up and coming and talented looking to cut his teeth! (She says talking as if this is actually going to become a thing, that my book will actually be accepted for publication, and that someone might want to make a film/TV series out of it XD)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree that to test the chops of an unknown would be awesome as opposed to well-known veteran who this might be a crowning jewel for.

        Technology? Magic? We’re living in a sci-fi right now.

        And I don’t there’s anything wrong in thinking about the adaptation. So long as it’s not thought of as a given (publication and all)! I think they are likely possibilities, the first, over the second but don’t rule it all out. That’s a fun thing to THINK about. The important thing to DO is to write. That you can control.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Perhaps later conversations with other characters could open up Jaspher’s character and intentions a bit? Or other characters talking about him like John or his dad? I am already very on board with a series, mainly because I think a lot of air time would be better for the story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I reckon it would be possible to condense Books 1 and 2 down into a single film although the end result would likely end up feeling really rushed and disappointing — there would be absolutely NO room for the nuance in Jaspher’s character and they’d probably turn him into a villain. A TV series would be much better ’cause it would enable everything to breathe, and mirror the slow build-up of tension and terrible that occurs in the book.

      Like

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