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?
Being 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…
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.
What won’t work well?
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.
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 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.
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.