Monday, July 7, 2014

Reader questions: defining unknown words and turning screenplays into graphic novels.

Nicole asks:

My question is regarding whether or not to define potentially unknown words in a script.

My screenplay involves a scientist working with electrical equipment. In lines of action to describe calculations/diagrams around his lab, I've been trying to be as simple with the terms as possible (volts, watts, etc), but there are a few instances where I need to be more specific to convey the actual experiment the scientist is working on, so I've written it with: equation for inductance, equation for capacitance, etc.

I doubt most people understand what those terms mean without doing a Google search, so for the reader/agent/manager who might be reading the script, do I need to put a small definition next to those types of terms so they have a basic understanding of what it refers to? Right now I have a brief definition in parentheses besides each, to err on the side of caution, but I feel like that might be odd...

I was hoping you had any kind of insight on this. I prefer not to have the scientist character spew off all of his methods in a heinous exposition monologue, so if there's a better way to keep this in the action lines, I'm open to any suggestions.

 I don't think I've gotten one like this before.  I'd say that the most important thing to remember is that you're writing a document that represents what we will see on screen.  The most important thing to convey to the reader is what the action will look like.  Is there a reason you can't just tell us what his methods look like?  Is it the sort of experiment we can follow visually or is there a narrative-important reason that we be able to actually understand the finer details of what he's doing?

Think of Breaking Bad.  We've seen Walter White cook up a number of meth batches, but at no point are we given a straight-up recipe for his meth, nor does the visual action spell out every detail.  We see only what is necessary for the story to advance.

Hope that helps.

Kevin asks:

I've been hearing for a while that it might be worthwhile to adapt your screenplay into a comic book as a means of getting your story picked up by a manager, agent, and/or production company. Now, I have the means to be able to create a graphic novel, then through Amazon's Createspace, I could easily print out a number of cheap copies. 

The questions I have are 

1. What would I do with the finished graphic novel once I have printed copies of it? Submit it directly to managers/agents? Submit it with a copy of my screenplay? 

Then, 2. Have you heard of their even being an interest and/or market for screenplays turned into graphic novels?

This was a hot trend about ten or so years ago, and there's at least one success story that people can point to in 30 Days of Night, which was written as a screenplay, then adapted to graphic novel and then adapted back.

The intel I have is that this trend is over and done.  If you've got an idea that works as a graphic novel, then great, pursue it.  Don't invest your time and energy in this if you're just doing it in the hopes of selling it as a screenplay.  Graphic novels and screenplays are different mediums entirely, even though they both have a focus on visual storytelling.

A quickie graphic novel will do you no favors.  If you're gonna go through with it, you'll probably want to get an artist who understands the nature of comic book storytelling, as well as some solid colorists and letterers.  A slap-dash comic book isn't going to excite anyone.

The only real value a graphic novel would have is if it was published and actually had a following of it's own.  Then it's an existing intellectual property that studios might have an interest in because they can point to preawareness with an audience.  A graphic novel without a fan base is as unattractive as a naked spec.

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