Screenplays are a study in minimalism. You have a brief slug to set up the scene, dialogue to create the mood, and very few physical actions to reinforce it all. The cardinal rule is, “Don’t tell the actor, director, cinematographer, editor, grip, or even the sandwich boy what to do”. Of course, you really are telling them what to do. It’s your job. You just have to be subtle about it.
I recently decided that because I am simply lacking focus on my novel right now, I would turn one of my old screenplays into a novella. I figure it will be good to have for promotional purposes down the line and this way at least I’m writing something. I started off with the notion that I could keep it really minimal, but I’m finding more and more that it simply won’t work that way.
I’ve never been one for intense world- building and detail over-sharing. I’ve been told I’m a pretty clean writer. However, in a novel, unlike a screenplay, I need to specify what kind of car the hero drives, what color the heroine’s hair is, and where exactly the desk is in the room. I need to let the reader follow the character’s movements through their world. If I can’t build a picture, the book doesn’t come alive.
It’s been fun so far, filing in the little details and discovering just how much more information I’m going to need in this story. It’s quickly ballooning up to the right number of pages. The only problem is that character motivations must be explored more than in the original screenplay and that is difficult to balance with the ambiguity that must remain for the mystery to work. Oh, and the whole reason I’m writing this is that I’m currently completely stuck on a scene of a romantic nature. I hate writing those and this is pretty much the king of all awkward make-out sessions.
I think it’s a foregone conclusion that too many or too few details will sink a novel, but how do you find your balance?