How to Turn a Book Into a Movie

Although it’s difficult, since a novel and a screenplay are two different bodies of work, here are a few tips on how to adapt:

Edit: There are a few differences between screenwriting and novel writing. Mainly, screenwriting is very minimal while a novel is packed with lots of information. The primary challenge of turning your novel into a screenplay will be editing your work so that the overall story in your novel stands out as the focal point.  The next step is then ensuring that that story is evoked through the important moments, quotes, overarching plot and characters. In essence, you want to trim the fat and make sure that the best pieces of content make it to the table.

Read: Although you literally wrote the book on it, take time to reread your work and play out the novel’s key scenes in your head. Picture the characters carrying out the actions that you have written for them, and visualize what those moments would look like on screen. Then take those scenes that stood out to you and format them into the structure of a screenplay. This will help you organize your thoughts and the plot.

Characters: Identify the main characters of your novel. Once you have determined who the important characters are and who plays an essential role in the plot, you can then go through and pick out those characters that don’t add much to the storyline; it’s those characters that can be removed.

Rework: This is an extension of the editing step. Reworking your book’s content into a screenplay can be an arduous task. As the author, you may have to reorder events, cut, combine, and even create new scenes and scratch unnecessary facts from the plot. Reinventing your novel into a screenplay is a meticulous procedure; however, through this process you could discover new, interesting and intricate nuances to your novel’s theme that you may have initially overlooked.

Action!: You probably know the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.”  This quote couldn’t be truer than when it comes to adapting your book into a screenplay.  It goes without saying that everything dealing with a screenplay has to be able to be experienced on a screen. To that point, when you were writing your book you were able to articulate how the character was feeling, and what they were thinking and experiencing through words. For a screenplay, you will have to translate those words into visual actions that are carried out through behavior, environment and dialogue.

Narrowing down your main characters, editing your book’s content, reworking the plot and putting all these factors into action are all integral parts of turning your novel into a screenplay. Good luck!


Examples of adaptation:

  • Harry Potter series
  • Twilight series
  • Hunger Games series
  • Divergent series
  • The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit saga
  • The Bourne trilogy
  • The Da Vinci Code
  • Angels & Demons
  • Biographies (The Social Worker, American Sniper, Malcolm X, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, Schindler’s List, etc.)
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • Gone Girl
  • The Fault in Our Stars
  • Precious: Based on Novel Push by Sapphire
  • Up in the Air
  • Gone With the Wind
  • The Great Gatsby
  • James Bond series
  • The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series
  • Stephen King books
  • Jurassic Park
  • Bridget Jones
  • The Princess Diaries
  • Jane Austen books
  • The Devil Wears Prada
  • Psycho
  • Roald Dahl books
  • The Godfather series



Some of the movies that won Oscars for Adapted Screenplay:


How to Come Up With Ideas:


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