Adapting Television to Prose

My experiences with television and fan fiction are, admittedly, limited. I did write a Sherlock fan fiction (which I will write a prequel for), but it exists somewhat outside of the series, in that it is not dependent upon the episodes to create the drama in the story.

I’ve begun to dabble a bit more into this realm, however, with my Merlin Fan Fiction, Krysia & Gwaine.

This is the first of probably several shows I’ll be doing fan fiction for, and probably the most involved piece where actual episodes are concerned. I found a good set of online transcripts, and I’m re-watching every episode. When you’ve got shows with followings like Merlin and Doctor Who, you can’t afford to screw up the details.

The really key thing about screenwriting that sets it apart from prose is the absolute emphasis on dialogue. That’s really just about all the writer of a film or show has control over. They had some control over essential and important action, place, time of day, etc, but only at the most basic level. Their job is to write dialogue.

I keep this very much in mind as I write, particularly because I don’t stick to the screenwriting format as my own skill as a screenwriter is limited at best. It’s something I want to polish and expand before I share it with people, and I’m not willing to wait for that long process to finish to write these fan fiction pieces. So Merlin is going from screenwriting to prose! I’m very careful to keep the dialogue the primary focus, which isn’t difficult, as that is also my best feature as a writer. However, I can’t just have dialogue. This is prose, after all.

This is where re-watching comes in, trying to spice up that dialogue with descriptive transitions, poignant moments of narration. The narrative can’t overpower the dialogue, but like good eye makeup, is a complement to the overall quality of the interaction. It’s a fine balance, one I’m still working on perfecting, and I would love any reader insights for people who’ve checked out my Merlin fan fic, as well as people who’ve taken on similar projects and how they struck that balance. Let’s share our insights to make this adaption process just a little more fluid for everyone!




About Charlotte Blackwood

Charlotte Blackwood is a self-employed aspiring author working on perfecting her first novella/ first novel. She is a current student at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, CA. If you're looking for a reading list (someday she'll add her own works to the list), she's currently supporting Anna Karenina, anything by Dickens, anything by Tolkien, anything by JK Rowling, A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Hunger Games.

3 thoughts on “Adapting Television to Prose

  1. Do you remember when I was babbling about Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere”? I think it was last fall: that story has been adapted into almost every conceivable format, from television series and graphic novel to regular novel and radio drama. I listened to the radio drama, which of course was all dialogue and sound, and now I’m reading the book. It’s neat to compare the two, how the radio drama picked up on small things in the story and translated the written descriptions into background noises or more dialogue and such. That’s not terribly helpful as a tip, but if you’re looking for examples check out “Neverwhere.”

    • Do you know what the original format was?

      • It was originally a six episode television series, which aired in 1996. The first novel version came out while the TV show aired, and there’s been an “American-friendly” edition and an edition that has both texts since. It was adapted into a short comic book series in 2005, and a stage adaptation followed in 2006, which has been picked up by various theatre companies over the years. The radio drama I heard was broadcast March 2013, which means my memory of it is off. Gaiman wrote a script for a movie version in 1999, but the movie idea was dropped, revived in 2008, and dropped again.

        Also, asdfghjkl; the original TV series is available on Netflicks, but not for streaming! You have to have them send it to you! Noooooooo!

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