Adaptations to the Screenphoto by Albert Lung

Professor Julia Keefer,

Novels, Short Stories, Plays, Comics, Video Games, News, Memoirs to Screenplays or Create a Novel from your Screenplay?

To understand the different structures of novels, plays, and screenplays
To analyze how the story morphs in different media
To keep characters complex and interesting and their dialogue provocative as they move to a different form
To see how novelistic description is converted into cinematic sequencing that reflects the theme
To determine and strengthen the Central Dramatic Question and the dramatic arc in a complex novel
To decide what to edit out of a novel or to write a short story of the novel
To develop a sense of world in a play that can open up into a screenplay
To give a screenplay narrative style

To read the required texts and listen to lectures and other students' projects
To attend class with punctuality and enthusiastic participation
To develop your own set of goals for the semester involving some kind of adaptation
To do one creative project and 1-3 critical projects
To write an analytical paper on its dramatic structure
Another paper on the narrative style and point of view
Another on description and sequencing
And a fourth on characterization
To write a one page peer review of other students' projects
To do a midterm draft of your final creative project
To submit your final creative project


Screenwriting versus Personal Writing

Screenwriting Structures

Conventional Dramaturgy

Experiments in TimeSpace

The Biological Rhythms of Drama

Keefer's Advanced Sequencing

Myth and the Movies

Lecture Notes and References

Required Texts

Adaptation: Turning Fact and Fiction in Film by Linda Seger
Screenwriting Updated by Linda Aronson
Adaptations: From Short Story to Big Screen: 35 Great Stories That
Have Inspired Great Films
(Paperback) by Stephanie Harrison
Screen Adaptation: A Scriptwriting Handbook, Second Edition
by Kenneth Portnoy
How to Adapt Anything into a Screenplay (Paperback)
by Richard Krevolin

Carving Your Story by Julia Keefer

Aristotle's Poetics
Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman
Screenplay by Syd Field
Story by Robert McKee
Myth and the Movies by Stuart Voytilla
The Writers Journey by Chris Vogler
How to Make a Good Script Great by Linda Seger
Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations by Georges Polti

The Tools of Screenwriting by Mabley/Howard
Hamlet on the Holodeck by Janet Murray

Breakdown SUMMER 2007

Week 1: Introductory lecture on difference between forms. Discussion of student projects. Review plots points and Campbell monomyth.

Week 2: In-depth lecture on story and structure.

Week 3: Story and Structure analysis due. Critique of projects.

Week 4: In-depth lecture on characterization, dialogue, and scene structure.

Week 5: Characterization paper due. Acting and improvisation. Discussion of characters.

Week 6: Midterm draft of your creative project. Cross-editing. This could be a treatment, a query letter, and a plot point summary or a first draft.

Week 7: Peer Review papers due. Description. Sets.

Week 8: In-depth lecture on sequencing.

Week 9: Sequencing paper due. Demonstration of 4-colored index cards sequencing screenplay. Or story boards. Show and tell.

Week 10: Act out scenes. Improvisational writing on sequencing.

Week 11: Act out scenes and pitch.

Week 12 Final Projects Due

Lecture Notes

For critical analyses and before choosing your project, review dramaturgy:

Please refer to to review all types of dramatic structure, the paradigms of time (plot points) and space (Campbell myth).
World of Time: Plot Points and the Central Dramatic Question-Catalyst, Commitment, Confrontation, Chaos, Crisis, Climax, Conclusion
TIME YOUR FILM EXACTLY and evaluate plot points.

World of Space: Campbell Paradigm, Ordinary and Special Worlds, Bore-dinary and Extraordinary, Call to Adventure, Crossing Thresholds, Meeting with the Mentor, Approach the Inmost Cave, Reward, Resurrection, Elixir

Novels, because they tend to be long and complex, need a meticulous time plot point analysis; plays need to be opened up with Ordinary/Special world Campbell myth; News stories need character orchestration, dramatic structure, character transformation, and effective sequencing; comic books would benefit from a linear prose treatment to simplify and clarify story structure.

All your final projects should include plot point time analysis, Campbell space analysis, a 60 scene nonverbal sequence, character bios and interaction using ideas in, a linear prose treatment written in the present tense without too much dialogue and minimal description, and a query letter describing the difference between the original and the proposed adaptation. Each student should write some pivotal plot point scenes in Final Draft, available at all NYU labs; however, a completed script is not mandatory for the class, although it is desirable for some of you.

Before moving to the final project, each student might want to do one to three analyses of their favorite films, bringing in the film, and talking over it, as well as submitting the outline to the listserv.

For screenwriting format, refer to How Not to Write a Screenplay by Denny Martin Flinn;
Syd Field for plot points, Robert McKee for character, Stuart Voytilla and Chris Vogler and Joseph Campbell for Campbell myth, Screenwriting Updated by Linda Aronson for innovative sequencing, Linda Seger and the other two Hollywood books for legalities and logistics of adaptations, Adaptations for ideas about the prose treatment aas evidenced in the short stories, and my ebook for quick free reference!

Ideally you should submit something every Wednesday--either a critical analysis, or one of the elements related to the creative project, or an edit of a previous element. For example, you could bring in character orchestration, transformation, interaction bios, or discuss the research necessary to make the adaptation, style or cultural differences, or a 10 scene storyboard in preparation for your sequencing assignment.

Note that story is different from dramatic structure which is different from character throughlines which is different from narrative style, voice, and sequencing, which is different from style. Please refer to my ebook Carving Your Story, written as well for some of my SUNY freshman as well as sophisticated global literature adult students.

For example, Pulp Fiction has a simple story, traditional dramatic structures, but highly complex time/space sequencing. You will develop your sequencing in the 60 scene sequencing assignment.

Since some of you are doing independent projects, we are always open to suggestions and modifications of the above. However, this works. Story is the simple chronology of events, specific as to time, person and place but often oblivious of dramatic structure.

Dramatic structure is the orchestration of conflict in the story, exaggerated or edited to produce an exciting fight (mental, physical or spiritual) between protagonist(s) and antagonists. In the classical model, this conflict is related to a central dramatic question, objectives, obstacles and plot points characterized by catalyst, commitment, confrontation, chaos/low point, crisis, climax and conclusion.

Narrative structure is the way the events are sequenced in time and space from the point of view of the narrator in a book and/or camera in a film in such a way that a style is created that expounds the theme, or the way the author feels about the material. In novels and short stories, the narrator or narrators tell the tale in the first or third person, singular and/or plural, and rarely in the second person. In film the narrator can be a real person who occasionally narrates over the action, or simply the POV of the camera.

For example, the CDQ in Pulp Fiction may be �How will the crime unfold among Vince, Jules, Butch etc., but the two themes are �Crime works if you can keep it a secret� within the chronology of events, or �It is possible to get out of crime with a spiritual transformation� based on the focus on Jules' epiphany at the conclusion in the way it is filmed. The story of Pulp Fiction is a mundane one of murder and double-dealing throughout three days with drug dealers; but the narrative structure of the stop action, rewind and fast-forward of a VCR turns the story into a dramatic structure with multiple protagonists where a character with little screen time has the character transformation that restructures the story into both an Aristotelian structure with three crises/climaxes, or a monomyth where Jules emerges from the special world to have a transformation. Don't worry if you don't understand all this right away, as it is covered thoroughly in various parts of the book.

While the Campbell myth is probably the best way to open up a play since the main thing here is space and it is a paradigm of time, plot point analysis, a prose
treatment, and a 60 scene storyboard of nonverbal action are also important tools. When you want to break the rules, you actually have to do more work to prove yourself.


Some writers clamp up when confronted with the daunting architecture of dramatic structure, character arcs and orchestration, narrative sequencing and voice, prefering an ad hoc improvisational approach to the ACT of writing. Therefore I recommend the following exercises:
A) Appropriation: Throughout your college career you have been taught NOT to plagiarize and of course, this is crucial. However, when adapting a work to the screen, you have to appropriate it, pretending that on one level, you wrote it, which is why I recommended to Michelle that she copy down her story verbatim, triple-spaced, as you would do for a close textual analysis. Get inside the writer's style, savor their words, feel the thrust of their sentences, and the progression of their paragraphs. Or if it is a play, hear their characters' talking and fighting as you write down the words. Every so often, stop, let your unconscious unravel, and just write a reaction to this in red giving you an idea of how you would visualize, change, develop, cut, compress, or expand the work. How is the work deconstructed in your imagination? Finally when the story is finished, or paragraphs from the plot points of the novel or memoir, or pivotal scenes from the play, analyze the entire work.
B) The above exercise will then help you write your 80 scene sequencing. Choose four different colored index cards for 1-30, 30-60, (Midpoint), 60-90, (Plot Point Two), 90-120( Crisis, Climax Conclusion) with approximately 20 cards in each section. The card consists of the scene heading of slug line--INT. KITCHEN--DAY or EXT. PARK--NIGHT, and only the action that takes place with the principal characters, no dialogue. This is to make sure it can be filmed. You can imagine aerial views, objects, actions etc. Shuffle the cards around until you have a viable sequence, paying attention to dynamics (noisy to quiet, lyrical to staccato, gentle to violent etc), story connections, relationship of sequencing to theme, narrative POV of camera, without resorting to a shot by shot technique.

C) Once the sequencing has been established, begin improvisational poetry exercises. Take each index card, create a mental picture of the scene, and then begin to write automatic poetry describing the action. Hopefully some of this will go into your final action sequences. Of course it must be edited for clarity and conciseness, but begin with improvisational writing. This is how "Christmas threw up on the tree" came out of Shara's unconscious.

Independent Studies as Follows:

Michele Wells:
This course aims to enable the student to engage critically with current theories in the field of film adaptation. In order to
reflect analytically on adaptation as not only a textual process, but also a social and economic one, the student will be
asked to think about her own position as a reader, film viewer, interpreter, judge, and consumer. The student will then go
on to create a screenplay adaptation based on an existing work.

Readings and screenings will elucidate specific topics such as: adaptation as social critique; the role of marketing in
adaptation; different modes of production, distribution, exhibition, and reception of film; and the recurrence and
permutations of archetypal stories. A variety of materials will be addressed, including source texts, films, reviews, and
scholarly research and criticism.

NOTE: This course assumes previous work in, and an understanding of the basics of, screenwriting; student should
already be familiar with Aristotle's Poetics, Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces and Syd Field's

Course Objectives
* Journal                              10%
* Midterm Project         40%
* Final Project                     50%
Throughout the course the student will be required to keep a journal of responses to assigned readings, screenings, and
independent research. Journal responses will be e-mailed to the professor on a weekly basis. For the first three weeks,
journal entries will include responses to specific, assigned questions; beginning in the fourth week, the student will be
expected to use the journal to plan the final project.

The midterm project will consist of a detailed Hero's Journey, outlining the basic storyline for a screenplay adaptation of
an existing text. In addition to the Hero's Journey, a logline, synopsis, and central dramatic question/main character arc
will be due.

The final project will consist of the first ten pages of the screenplay adaptation based on an existing text. The student
will be expected to exemplify at least one of the methodologies introduced in the class within the midterm draft. These
could include: students' own responses as readers and viewers, as recorded in their journals; scholarly articles; fan
websites; film reviews; marketing materials; and artistic work in a variety of media (e.g., opera versions, poems). The
final project objectives are:
* To understand the different narrative structures of novels, plays, and screenplays
* To analyze how the story morphs in different media
* To keep characters complex and interesting and their dialogue provocative as they move to a different form
* To see how novelistic description is converted into cinematic sequencing that reflects the theme
* To determine and strengthen the Central Dramatic Question and the dramatic arc in a complex novel
* To decide what to edit out of a novel to give a screenplay narrative style

Active, consistent participation throughout the entire course is crucial; missing more than one online response may
jeopardize a student's ability to pass. Participation grades will be based on timely submission of journal entries/reading
responses, independent readings on film and written texts, and work outside the class such as visiting office hours.

* Read the texts and watch the films listed below, as well as participate in outside activities (attend screenings, visit
exhibits, and so on).
* Write a detailed Hero's Journey outlining the events of the screenplay adaptation based on an existing text.
* Submit a final project of no fewer than 10 pages of a screenplay adaptation of an existing text.

Reading List
1. Andrew, Dudley. �Adaptation.� Film Adaptation. Ed. James Naremore. (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press,
2000), pp. 28-37.
2. Aycock, Wendell M. Film and Literature: A Comparative Approach to Adaptation (Ft. Worth: Texas Tech University
Press, 1990).
3. Foucault, Michel. �What is an Author?� Language, Counter-Memory, Practice. Ed. and trans. Donald F. Bouchard.
(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), pp.. 113-38.
4. Harrison, Stephanie. Adaptations: From Short Story to Big Screen: 35 Great Stories That Have Inspired Great Films
(Chicago: Three Rivers Press, 2005).
5. McFarlane, Brian. Novel to Film: An Introduction to the Theory of Adaptation (New York: Oxford University Press
USA, 1996).
6. Raengo, Alessandra. Literature and Film: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Film Adaptation (New York:
Blackwell Publishing, 2004).
7. Robert Stam. �Beyond Fidelity: The Dialogics of Adaptation.� Film Adaptation. Ed. James Naremore. (New
Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2000), pp. 54-76.
8. Sadlier, Darlene J. �The Politics of Adaptation: How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman.� Film Adaptation. Ed. James
Naremore. (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2000), pp. 190-205.

Film Adaptations
At least four (4) film adaptations should be screened; prior approval of professor should be obtained, and journal
responses should be submitted following the screening of each film.


Adaptations can include writing a screenplay based on a novel, short story, article, play, memoir, newspaper story, comic book, or video game, OR writing a novel etc based on a screenplay you wrote first. The twenty-first century is the century of morphing stories from media to media, country to country. While we try to preserve the magic of the original story, each medium demands a different structure, style, and theme. As stories move from culture to culture, different tastes dictate the character qualities, story twists and turns, and description and depiction of worlds, values, and taboos. Many of these textbooks are based on the values of the Hollywood market at the turn of the century, and therefore should be read critically. Hollywood's demand for the likeable, identifiable, sympathetic protagonist might exclude most of the great European works of the twentieth century, not only because the main characters are reclusive, anti-social, intellectual loners, but because the stories often have unhappy endings. While traditional dramatic structure has stayed consistent since Aristotle, innovative approaches to timespace sequencing, plot resolution, tandem storytelling, and character development must be explored, especially when adapting postmodern and experimental fiction or creating work that will be available in the digital world of cyberspace. It is crucial to distinguish between the conflict of dramatic structure where protagonists and antagonists fight to follow their throughlines, in orchestrated, causal events related to the central dramatic question, and narrative sequencing, which plays with time and space on more subliminal levels related to the theme of the work. To say the novels are internal and films are external is simplistic, as all media penetrate our consciousness in different ways.

However, films must be pitched, sold, and filmed, and therefore a plot point outline, a short prose treatment, and a 60-scene visual storyboard influenced by Ordinary/Special World delineations are recommended. On the other hand, the exposition, introspection, character and thematic development, detailed description, and expanded narration of a novel can give the author the creative control they lack in film, as well as significant ballast to keep the screenplay afloat. In many ways, screenplays are like the tip of an iceberg; when they break off from their source, they sometimes get lost. It is always good to imagine much more than what is there as a blueprint.

But always ask these questions:
Who is my main character? What does he or she want (something big enough to take up the whole throughline)? What obstacles get in the way of this objective? How does the character change by confronting obstacles? What is the worst, and the best thing, that could happen to him or her? What specific events could be described to create suspense, surprise, mystery, and/or laughter? How does the world evolve from Ordinary to Special World and back as a result of the main character's journey? How does my theme differ from my central dramatic question? What is the temperature of my dramatic structure? What are the timespace parameters of my narrative style? What do I want my audience to FEEL--cry, laugh, be afraid, think etc?