When a screenwriter adapts a novel for the screen they invariably cut large quantities of the author’s material as it does not contribute to what the screenwriter has identified as the main narrative drive. They have 90 to 120 pages to tell a story that may have been written using hundreds more pages.
So how would a transmedia writer approach an adaption of a novel?
Firstly they would examine in depth the world of the story to open up creative possibilities and ways of expanding the material – an exact opposite approach to the screenwriter. That is how different the two disciplines are, just as writing a novel is different to writing a stageplay or screenplay.
The transmedia writer would add material to the adaption, material that grows from the text of the novel in an organic way. It has to be truthful and real to the novel’s storyworld.
A Clockwork Orange
For example lets look at an approach to a transmedia adaption of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ written by Anthony Burgess in 1962. Look at the Droog gang; Alex, Dim, Pete and Georgie. What happens to them after the events in the novel? What happens to Alex once he turns his back on violence and wants to be like Pete? Does Alex have kids? Do they become Droogs and does the line continue? How does the author F. Alexander cope in the mental institution?
Here are a few examples of other ways to expand the material organically;
- A series of live events; Droog flash mobs at Beethoven concerts. A new play based on the life of F. Alexander, the author whose wife Alex murders.
- A controversial videogame where the player takes the role of Alex and has to embark on increasingly violent sprees of the old ultra-violence to keep control of his gang. Here the violence would have a context as it is rooted in the author’s dystopian vision of society.
- An audiobook of the unabridged text read by a rising young movie star.
- Alex’s mother’s family photo album with her voice-over describing life with Alex as a child.
- Academic papers written by characters Dr. Brodsky and Dr. Branom on gang behaviour, mind control and modern policing.
- Old TV news clips that give an insight into how society ended up the way it is portrayed in the novel
The method of widening the original scope of the material and transposing the meaning and context into other media is basically the same whether you are deploying transmedia for marketing or for a native transmedia story. They are skills and techniques the transmedia writer needs to deliver compelling content that will engage the audience.
The Kindle edition of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ is now available.