How Writing for the Screen Is Different From Writing for the Page

"It's very easy to write a script compared to a book," says the author. A novel is not a logical thing and it doesn't come from a logical place—a screenplay is a focused plan.
  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Question: Has your work as a screenwriter influenced the way you write novels?

Bret Easton Ellis: A novel is not a logical thing and it doesn't come from a logical place.  It comes from a really emotional place.  A screenplay is a plan.  You have a plan.  You have to tell a story within about 100 pages and it has to move this way and that way.  And there needs to be some sense of resolution, and it has to have this kind of narrative flow that a book doesn't.

And so in a way it's very easy to write a script compared to a book.  I think part of the reason maybe screenwriting is not as much fun as writing a book is that you have to adhere to a formula, and stylistically it doesn't matter how it's written, and ultimately it's the blueprint for medium where a director and the actors are more important than the script.  And it's collaborative.  You get notes from producers.  You get notes from people who have a lot of money who want to put their imprint on the film.  And you get notes from a director who wants three, four, five more polishes before he's ready do shoot.

And so it's a collaborative process. And a novel is not a collaborative process.  And there are, I think, pleasures to both mediums and I like working in both.  But it's a good point.  Has it affected my writing—writing, you know, so many scripts? I don't think so because I don't look at a novel as a thing that I want to turn into a movie.  I mean, the novels that I write are really just literary-based.  I think of them as books first and foremost and I don't think of them anything else.

Recorded June 23, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman