Top Five Tips on Writing an Adaptation

Top Five Tips on Writing an Adaptation

Matthew Gurteen

What do Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, and Michael Stewart’s Ill Will have in common? They are all adaptations of books the authors have significant admiration for, namely Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, William Shakespeare’s King Lear, and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, respectively. Many writers often want to adapt their favourite stories, whether as a screenplay, for the stage, or as another book. This article will give you our top five tips to use when adapting your favourite story, regardless of format!

1. Show, don’t tell

It is the golden rule of writing, and it is as true when creating an adaptation as in any other genre. You must always take care to show your reader what you mean rather than telling them directly. When writing an adaption, however, this point means creating a balance between telling the reader the source of your rewriting and showing them through characters and adapted plot points. As tempting as it can be to tell your reader what you are adapting, showing them through clever comparisons is significantly better.

2. Choose ten key moments

Another tip to consider when writing an adaptation is to pay attention to the critical moments in your source. We suggest re-reading/ watching your source material and highlighting ten key moments that you personally enjoy to transform in your own writing. If you include these ten key moments in your adaptation, it is sure to shine!

3. Check the rights

This tip is one of the most important steps in writing an adaptation. You must always check the usage rights of the source you are adapting. You do not want to be halfway through a draft and find out it is illegal to publish. Luckily, this point is not an issue for those adapting classic novels and plays like Jane Eyre, King Lear, and Wuthering Heights. If your source is more modern, however, research the copyright!

4. Don’t be afraid to delete

When beginner writers adapt their favourite story, they are often nervous about making changes for fear of spoiling the story or being unfaithful to the source. When writing an adaptation, however, you should never be afraid to remove plot points or characters. What works in the original may not work in your story, so delete if you have to and add your own words.

5. Remember today

Our final point on writing a great adaptation is to remember why you are writing it. Why do you think the story needs to be told again? Does it have an important message for today’s world, or does it need updating? Whatever the reason, remember that you are not writing the story for the same audience as the source. This point is especially true concerning classic novels. Keep your modern audience in mind alongside your source.

Have you ever written an adaption? Maybe you are working on one right now. If so, let us know about it in the comments below, along with your own tips to help your fellow writers!