Today I’m welcoming to the blog Vivian Rhodes, author of If You Should Read This, Mother.
Vivian Rhodes, a graduate of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communication, is a published mystery novelist and two time Emmy-nominated television writer, having written for daytime serials such as General Hospital and As the World Turns. Her Lifetime movie, Stolen from the Womb, airs frequently, most recently in May 2016. Her suspense thriller, If You Should Read This, Mother is available at www.Blackopalbooks.com and Amazon, and can be ordered through local bookstores as well. Her novel, Groomed for Murder is now available as an e-book on Amazon, Ms. Rhodes lives in Los Angeles, where she is an adjunct instructor at Cal Lutheran University. She is presently completing work on her next novel, Girl Obsessed, and writes about all things nostalgic – from film noir to vintage toys – on her blog, Rhodes Less Traveled.
Guest post: Writing a script vs. writing a novel
It’s been said, for good reason, that the play is an actor’s medium, television a producer’s medium, film a director’s medium, and the novel a writer’s medium. With the exception of one’s editor, the author of a novel pretty much has free reign and the final say in how he or she wishes to tell a story. I know I did with both my first novel, Groomed for Murder, and with my recently released thriller, If You Should Read This, Mother.
A film, on the other hand, is a collaborative venture. I understood and accepted this when my Lifetime movie, Stolen from the Womb, was produced. Another writer, or several other writers, may be brought on to “doctor” your script before it ever airs. And to a director, a screenplay is no more than a blueprint. He (or she) will interpret the story as he or she sees fit even if that means completely overhauling the script. This is why so many screenwriters aspire to be the next Quentin Tarantino or Woody Allen, directing what it is they’ve written.
Another way in which writing for film and television is different than writing a novel or a play is that in a play, the story is essentially revealed through the characters’ dialogue. Even under the guidance of a director, it is the actor who ultimately conveys the essence of the play. (This was true, incidentally, in old-time radio as well.)
In a novel, the author can rely on a combination of dialogue and exposition to lay out the story. A visual medium, however, is just that: visual. Here, the old axiom “show don’t tell” strictly applies.
For example, in a novel, a young, resolute ballerina might say, “I realize this is difficult, but I’m determined to make dancing my life’s work no matter what it takes.”
On film she’d say nothing. Instead, we’d see her remove her wrinkled waitress uniform and change into a leotard. She’d twist her long pony tail into a bun before sitting down and taking off her shoes. We, the audience, would watch her slip worn ballet slippers over feet that are bruised and discolored. She’d walk into the dance studio, take a deep breath, and begin a strenuous dance routine. Her determination to dance despite all obstacles would be revealed without so much as a line of dialogue.
A script can go on for pages without dialogue. To some writers, this might seem easy. Personally, I find it challenging. My strength is in writing dialogue. (I would love to have been a writer on one of those old radio shows.) When I wrote for the daytime soaps, I preferred script writing as opposed to writing story breakdown. I also find it more natural for me, in writing a mystery, to include a lot of dialogue in addition to exposition.
Writing a screenplay is a trickier proposition. I need to constantly remind myself to convey a scene with as little dialogue as possible. I would probably have an easier time adapting a screenplay to a novel than I would have adapting a novel into a screenplay. In fact, Girl Obsessed, the psychological suspense novel I am completing now, was actually based on a script I had previously written. After writing the script I felt that I could explore the characters in greater depth in a novel. Using the script as more or less an outline, I did just that with great success. Ironically, I can now use the manuscript to punch up my screenplay.
At the end of the day, whether one is writing a play, a novel, or a screenplay, it is imperative to keep in mind the particular medium for which one is writing.
My review of the book
A multi-layered, complex book with compelling mysteries that held my interest.
I was a little overwhelmed at first by the number of point-of-view characters, and their detailed back stories. However, once the story picked up I enjoyed piecing it together from the different perspectives.
I didn’t gel all that well with the heroine for most of the book; I didn’t quite understand why her obsession with finding her birth mother (for a reason that didn’t convince me) was more important than her own daughter and husband. Come the end of the book, though, I understood much better why she was so psychologically fixated, and I was glad I had stuck with her.
There’s a lot of story to navigate in this book, which makes for a gripping, intriguing read, and twists and turns frequently surprised me. There are some red herrings, but even these held my interest, in the main.
I had expected, based on the synopsis, darkness and action in the book, and on this score the ending certainly – and chillingly – delivers. I think it will take me quite some time to get over that ending!
* My rating: Four stars *
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Author: Vivian Rhodes
Megan Daniels was only three years old the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, but flashes of that day begin to trigger other disturbing memories that have lain dormant within her. At first they are merely snippets, but, as they begin to appear more frequently Megan has difficulty separating what is real from what is imagined. In her attempt to learn more, she sets out to find her biological mother, but keeps hitting brick walls. No adoption papers exist, and all she has to go on is her possible birthday: November 22. In the small town of Meredith, California, Megan’s search takes on a dire, domino effect—one woman has already been murdered as a result of her inquiries. As she digs for the truth, Megan eventually unravels a sinister plot that began decades earlier, but in doing so she places her own life in jeopardy.
Publisher: Black Opal Books
Publication date: 17 June 2017
Length: 434 pages
Available from: Amazon