Seeing as Saturday’s post (was it really so long ago?) touched on A Game of Murder (and its 1930’s heart), and last Wednesday’s looked at ‘Death in the Clouds’, I thought it was about time to expand on the post-beginning I had inspired by Writegoodbooks. Although he talks about converting novels to screenplays, I feel the same very well applies to stageplays – if not more in some cases. I found the post very interesting in point of the ‘bigger picture’ of a novel, where it can be dissembled and understood.
I started off in stageplays. I was eight years old, or thereabouts, scribbling a pathetic secondary school stageplay about bullying and second love. This was what amused me for writing. No seriousness, no sense – and teacher-characters with ridiculous names.
It was fair to say that not even eleven-year-old me took the script seriously. There was a story in their somewhere, but it would need to be prised out. I rewrote bits, but this was before I had learnt the tenacity to edit in a laborious, proper fashion.
So, I shelved that idea. Stageplays? Hmm, maybe not.
But it’s not a bad idea for writers to restructure their minds and thoughts. As Writegoodbooks said:
I would adopt the mindset that it’s like a puzzle. Try and distance myself from all that clever writing, word play. Think ‘big picture’. What must go in, what can be left out or shown in a better way?
We could always move scenes around or switch them to another location, or join two or three scenes together, keep it bouncing along, think ‘action’ rather than ‘inner turmoil’.
I think one of the elements of A Game of Murder that could make it just as suitable for stage than novel is that a good quarter of the novel is in one setting. In fact, the whole mystery takes place in one afternoon’s work (I have a particular liking for stories that pace in that way – though this may go during my new style of editing).
In particular, a guesthouse is, although not unique, a good setting for mystery: suspects cooped up together. And as a central location, I’ve allowed for hidey-holes and the like. In my opinion, a stage should always have at least three exists. 😉
In addition, I’ve always found one-setting plays more effective. It saves time changing scenes.
In my mind, this is reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s plays, where no set change is required and they are still as effective. The Mousetrap is one the longest running plays, and it has that traditional murder mystery aspect of the claustrophobic idea. Mystery thrives on having no definite answer from the outside; only when in the deepest of the mystery does one understand the roots of the question. Classic locked room. Though, mine is much less complicated!
One of the things I love about The Mousetrap is that there are events happening in other rooms of the general setting – the stage even has two staircases and a door that opens to the ‘library’, as little as it is needed. It’s the authenticity that makes the staging sparkle.
If I’m honest, what really intrigues me about converting A Game into stageplay, is that of characterisation. Sure, you’ve got visual scene all around that doesn’t deal as well as prose (though some writers, like Ibsen and Priestley, are great fans of long stage and scene direction), but how the characters behave is down to the actors and their interpretation.
A few of my themes of this novella/novel (let’s see what the wordcount is after I edit) include first impressions and performance/keeping up appearances and deception – ideal for mysteries, of course! If I, theoretically, let a group of actors, different creators in their own rights, take on the slight descriptions of the characters and transform them, whilst keeping to the themes, they might well portray a novel characterisation that hadn’t occurred to me straight away.
Acting allows for many more visual cues than books. Deception can be portrayed by visual cues. Following that logic, deception is easier to show on stage than in literature fiction. Perhaps I ought to tone down my descriptions, starting within the stageplay, to see if that makes the characters and their internal mysteries shine so much.
In this way, the inside scenes could be acted well as a play (I’m still working to transform the latter half taking place outside of the guesthouse)!