For Greg's side of this story story, check out the sister post on his blog.
All during the five years I spent writing my debut novel, Inside the Outside, I thought of it in very cinematic terms. I love movies, have loved them my whole life. In fact, I’d be willing to say that my love of movies equals—if not surpasses—my love of books. Where it concerns my creative ambitions, however, I’ve always been focused on creative writing, specifically prose fiction.
As for films, I’ve always loved them from a purer place, I think, more of an amateur appreciator, someone who was simply glad that there were brilliant filmmakers out there willing to exercise their craft for the benefit of folks like me who love sitting in a movie theater, popcorn in hand, and getting lost in whatever story they’ve decided to tell me.
So when my brother, Greg, called me up and asked about adapting Inside the Outside into a screenplay, I didn’t immediately know how I felt about it. It wasn’t that I’d never hoped it would one day be made into a film (I have to imagine that this is the hope of a great many novelists), I just figured if it did happen, I would have little to do with it beyond optioning the film rights.
But, Greg is a brilliant filmmaker and I knew he wouldn’t have broached the idea if he didn’t have a clear vision of what the movie would look and feel like. He knew my plate was full, both with marketing and promoting Inside the Outside, as well as writing my second novel. Assuming I was interested in collaborating with him on this project, he wanted to know if I’d be willing to make it a priority in my otherwise busy schedule. So I told him that if this was something he wanted to do then we should do it. Why not, right?
The first thing we did was establish a scheduled routine. After comparing our schedules, we settled on Tuesday evenings at his place and Friday evenings at mine. The first thing we decided to do was create an outline for the entire screenplay, using Scrivener. I love creating outlines, as it’s how I write my novels, so this was right up my alley.
During our first meeting, we focused on how to open the movie. On the surface this seemed like it should be a piece of cake—I did, after all, write the story!—but, for the screenplay, Greg explained why we would need to invent a new opening. It all made perfect sense to me and I was totally on board, it just proved to be more challenging than I expected.
In fact, up to this point, I’m finding the most challenging aspect of adapting Inside the Outside is figuring out how to retell my story in the language of cinema. For the record, this wasn’t my first time working on a screenplay. I spent some time studying screenwriting in college and I also wrote a number of shorts and comedy sketches with Greg. And, more than once, we’d collaborated on feature-length screenplays (none of which ever reached a final, polished state).
That being said, I don’t consider myself a screenwriter. For that matter, I haven’t exercised my screenwriting muscles for at least a few years. This is where having Greg as a collaborator works tremendously well in my favor. I have the comfort of knowing I can talk about the book purely as a story and, whatever it is I am saying to him, he can see it in film terms.
So far the process has been both fun and challenging. It’s involved a lot of hard work, pizza, and slumber parties. And over the next couple of weeks you can look forward to me recounting all the highs and lows. I’ll tell you about what it’s like seeing my story through my brother’s eyes, the thrill of hearing him totally get what I was trying to say and the odd (humbling?) experience of finding out that he actually understands certain aspects of my story better than I do.