How To Get Your Novel Filmed: Creating Distinctive Elements

Y Streic A Fi, fully subtitled, 9pm S4C Sat 21st Feb, then Tues 24th Feb, plus subsequently on BBC I Player

So interesting things happen when a 300 page novel gets condensed down to a 90 minute film. Storylines get edited out, characters disappear or morph into different characters representing same theme, and graphic elements, like violent sex, may disappear. But there may be more gain than loss:


In my story, there’s a fashion show where the miners wives and daughters raise money. This got taken out early on in making the screenplay and I was disappointed. It was important to me to show resourceful the characters were – and how much glamour can matter when you’re feeling mariginalized, frightened and possibly en route to becoming down and out.

I kept schtum about my disappointment, as others more fitted than I were developing the screenplay and I was appropriately at a distance. My baby had gone. So I was thrilled when during filming, this scene reappeared…

I was very lucky in that Ashley Way, director, totally got my story and themes. And masterful Gwyneth Lewis- who is a pretty grand fromage globally as a poet – doing her first screenplay, dug out all the most powerful story turns. Owen Powell, formerly of Catatonia, who did the music, created a beautiful, elegaic soundtrack. And the actors really went for it.

Before becoming totally luvvie, I’ll shut up here, and for you, my readers, here are the distinctive elements that I think leapt out of this novel, yelling ‘ Film me, please, film me!’

  • All the main characters had very clear storylines, as I plotted their individual journeys through the novel. So it was easy to exorcize some of them
  • In her fascinating book Do Story, Bobette Buster talks about isolating one sensory channel to focus on in your story: I chose visual elements and made the main character, Carys, strongly visually orientated.
  • It’s probably my psychology background but I love analysis of contradiction, both within character and within situation. So I charted both extensively in The Gritties and of course, acting to resolve contradiction creates conflict, which is, as we all know, the essence of drama…
  • Please forgive the lofty comparison here, but I wanted to feel that I was behind the eyes of my main character, when writing. This is the quality that I admire in Hilary Mantel’s work: in Wolf Hall, you almost feel like you are a camera behind Thomas Cromwell’s eyes. And this is now on the telly as most of us know.So that’s that on this little series. If you’d like to ask me any questions or comment, please do below. I’ll be making an e book of these posts quite soon and will keep you posted.And if you watch the film, please enjoy and have hankies to the ready.