Once in my lifetime I attempted screenwriting, but it was no pleasure of mine. I tolerated it. I might have minimally enjoyed it. But I did not love it and I vowed never to force myself to do it again.
Yet it’s the nature of my personal vows and the irony of the universe that if I say “never,” it returns “how soon.” So can you guess what the first topic is in my creative writing class. Yep, screenwriting.
Since I am now obligated to write a screenplay, if not many of them, I am determined to not only do it well, but to enjoy it marginally, and heaven forbid, maybe even love it! Since the formatting and style of screenwriting and fiction are so drastically different (a divide that I believe hinders my ability to love it more wholly), I’m going to adapt various scenes from my stories to the screen as a way of bringing together what I love with something I would like to love more.
It is as in learning: To master anything, you must associate it with something that you already know.
“BEFORE THE STORM”
EXT. ROCKY BEACH – DAY.
ISAAC, a red-haired sixteen-year-old with freckles and a strong builds, sits in the sand just past the water’ edge while WANDA, Isaac’s age with amber hair, drifts in the foamy water, holding tightly to a black rock rising from the sea.
Day’s lovely, ain’t it?
Always, Isaac, when you say it is.
I could say the sky’s dark on a Sunday and you’d still agree.
(a beat; brushing hair from her eyes)
A storm’s coming.
Isaac and Wanda look across the water and silently acknowledge the darkening horizon.
Think it’ll be as bad as last time?
Certainly, if not seven times worse.
Wanda grins and Isaac laughs.
Think I should warn father?
Absolutely not. He’ll know in his own time today, or else he won’t know at all. All the better for him, I should think.
Wanda crosses her arms as she leans against the black rock, then quickly grabs onto it as a large swell pushes her to and fro. Isaac smiles again and Wanda laughs at him.
The wind blows against them, cold and vicious, and small drops of seawater blow into Isaac’s face. He stands as the water rolls in around his feet and up to his knees, yet he’s perfectly content.
You should soon head home, Isaac. The storm’s ruthless today, and you’re further to home than I am.
You’ll leave soon, won’t you, Wanda?
As soon as you’re out of sight, so hurry along, boy, or would you rather the waves get me first?
Isaac laughs. AD LIB friendly banter.
The sea churns around them; thunder sounds in the distance.
Be well, Wanda.
Isaac waves at Wanda, then runs off along the shore.
— adapted from “Sunday Sails Away”
* * *
A TOUCH OF COLOR
INT. UNFINISHED PENTHOUSE – NIGHT
JOE MESSIAH, 34, sits in the center of the disheveled living area staring at an easel holding a stark white CANVAS. In one hand he holds a PAINTBRUSH; in the other a PALETTE full of stale paint.
SERIES OF SHOTS
A) Joe raises the brush and dips it into the paint.
B) Joe paints a burst of red at the center of the canvas.
C) Joe traces lines of black and violet that look like sound waves emanating from the red splotch.
D) Joe scratches three white birds onto the top-right corner.
END SERIES OF SHOTS
Joe Messiah sits in the same position as before. The canvas is untouched. His fingers slowly uncurl and the brush and palette both fall to the floor.
Joe looks toward the floor-to-ceiling windows at the end of the room, where sunlight is beginning to trickle in from over the surrounding skyline. He swallows uneasily and looks toward the door.
Joe walks toward the door and grips the knob with a shaky hand. A beat. Joe wrenches the door open and steps back.
A GIRL, age eight, steps through the doorway with an air of authority. She looks at the canvas and then looks up at Joe with narrow eyes.
I am displeased. I wanted something beautiful. You have given me nothing.
Joe begins to shake and grips at the air.
Please . . .
The girl tightens her gaze.
. . . Please! Just give me one more chance!
Joe falls to his knees, pleading before the little girl. She regards him with distaste and then stares at the empty canvas once more.
I have given you a week, Messiah, and you have produced nothing in this time. Why do you deserve another chance?
I don’t know… Please!
One more night.
One more night, Joe Messiah, and if I am not satisfied come morning, I shall keep her forever.
— adapted from “The Canvas”
* * *
THE QUEST BEGINS
EXT. CASTLE COURTYARD – DAY (MEDIEVAL ERA)
YOASH, a knight in well-worn armor, carries a bloodstained URN beneath one arm and drags three large, white curving BONES behind him. A crowd has gathered in his wake and now everyone in the courtyard stares at him as well.
Yoash drops the ropes tied to the bones, sets down the urn, and raises his arms to the suddenly silent crowd.
The great dragon is dead!
There’s a moment of confused silence, then the crowd erupts into a cacophony of cheering. As they rush in around Yoash, he lifts the urn and the ropes and begins to plow through them toward the archway leading inside the castle.
INT. KING’S CHAMBER – DAY.
Yoash sets down the urn and ropes and bows deeply before the KING, a middle-aged man sitting in the throne whose eyes are wide at the sight before him.
Yoash stands ramrod straight. A beat.
The deed is done. Your promise fulfilled.
INT. TOWER STAIRWAY – DAY
Yoash climbs the winding steps of a large tower that ends in a wooden door. He pulls it open and enters.
The PRINCESS, a fair-skinned young woman, lies in an ornate four-poster bed. She looks toward the window; damp cloths are visible draped over her face.
Yoash kneels at her bedside and rests his hand upon her arm.
The Princess turns to face him and takes his hand in hers weakly.
(blinking aside tears)
Forgive me, for my love could not survive us.
Yoash brushes his hand across her face then lightly holds a finger atop her lips.
Speak nothing. I shall find you a cure. I have crossed demons and delusions and dragons for you. There is no end I will not climb to for our love, my love.
The princess smiles weakly before her face contorts in pain.
There is no hope, Yoash, no hope at all. Every healer has been at my bedside, and every healer has failed to break my bane.
He smooths her hair in silence. He removes the cloths, dips them into a nearby bowl of cool water, then wrings out the cloths and returns them lightly to her face. Yoash glances at the window for a moment, peering out to the lands of he kingdom stretching onward far below.
There is one cure no one has offered. The Elixir of the Sun.
(shaking her head)
Th Sun God is dead, Yoash. The Elixir has not been seen nor smelt in centuries.
I am the Son of Fire, my love; I know the way into his land. I will find the sun god and I will find his elixir. I shall return for you, milady. Our love will become the tales they tell to our grandchildren and to theirs.
Yoash kisses her lips and then rises to leave.
— adapted from “Sun of the Damned”