Your narrative needs to be written so solidly, that it cannot be altered if someone attempts to adapt it: Every character must be fleshed-out, their relationships to others must be well-established, your setting must set the tone, and each scene must be essential to the progress of the plot.
I write this thinking exclusively of Annette Curtis Klause‘s YA novel Blood and Chocolate, which I enjoyed as a teen. Despite this, the movie was ohmygod bad. Let me re-phrase that: It was a fine teen-age werewolf movie; It was a disastrous adaptation: they changed the setting from suburban US to Budapest, changed the dynamic between characters, cut essential characters, and therefore completely changed the conflict and the ending. The novel had an excellent ending, since it was not the predictable Hollywood ending… and then the movie happened. So sad.
I’ve also been thinking about how MNIN… could be changed. Hypothetical situations like this are actually excellent fodder for developing your characters, because it helps you feel out what they would do in comparable situations. You end up with more thoroughly-developed characters and a more solid plot. If nothing else, you are practicing writing.
- What would happen if Witt were Black (I originally described him as red-haired and freckle-faced, but then decided to make him Black… then changed him back, because it would change the dynamic of how he handles his true self)?
- What would happen if Heather and Byron had had an affair (still playing with this idea)?
- What would happen and Monica and Witt were dating (also considering changing this)?
- What would happen if Rhodes had a family back home (he has family, but I mean wife and kids)?
- What if Heather’s parents were alive, or she were raised by a grandmother rather than Tech (I would not change Tech for the world)?
- What if Atlanta were out-of-sequence with Rhodes’s other murders (oh, the mess!)?
- What if Rhodes had targeted Detroit rather than Chicago (I might actually be making this change, since it means so much in terms of socioeconomics and infrastructure)?
- What if Rhodes weren’t raised the way he was (keeping that to myself – for now)?
- What if Rhodes were poor (ooh – I should try writing that…)?
What if it weren’t in Atlanta? THIS is a big question, and I’ve been considering ways I can make the setting more integral to the narrative. The dynamics I have between the characters – sexuality and race are major issues – are solid, but there’s also an undertone of music and history in the narrative:
- Atlanta’s seal is a Phoenix over the capitol building (made of Dahlonega gold, btw) – and Heather calls the city “The only Phoenix she’ll ever love.” This is because the city was burnt to the ground during the Civil War, but was flourishing again in fewer than fifty years.
- Country music and rock are held to the same importance (Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, and Trisha Yearwood as well as REM, Collective Soul, and Butch Walker).
- Technical know-how and intellect are valued equally (without one, the other is useless).
- Football is over-valued.
- There is a great variety in ethnicity.
- An incendiary mix of liberal and conservative (I can’t have the story set in Atlanta proper, because the Witts wouldn’t live there, but in the suburbs…)
- Where-the-frak-else are you going to find a Southern peach like Heather Stokes?
- Oh, and, most importantly, Auburn sucks. I support this sentiment so pervasively that I just might toss it somewhere in everything I ever write.