Indivisible: Based on a True Story

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As a writer, every movie that gets made is a dream come true. I believe stories have the power to change hearts and the world.

I had the extreme privilege of working on a feature film based on a true story about a U.S. Army Chaplain, Darren Turner. I got to work with David Evans, the co-writer and director of Indivisible. (He also did the movie The Grace Card.) I have a new love for movies about marriages.

From IMDB story synopsis: “Upon returning from serving in the U.S. Army, Chaplain Darren Turner faces a crisis that shatters his family and faith in God but through the help of former soldiers, they help him return to his faith and family.”

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It’s always neat to see what you envision on the page come to life. Through the cast, set design, locations etc. Movie making takes a lot of people and teamwork. I was very impressed with Calvary Church in Memphis for the many ways they gave of themselves tirelessly in support of the production team.  They also blanketed this project in prayer 24-7. It showed; God’s hand was all over this.

My hubby and I also got the chance to be extras in a scene. I love sharing these experiences with him:

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We really enjoyed meeting some of our cast: Sarah Drew (Grey’s Anatomy) who is also one of our producers, Justin Bruening, Tia Mowry, Samara Lee, Madeline Carroll, Abigail Hummel, Leyah Brown, Lucas Boyle.

I love this screen family photo Sarah Drew shared on Twitter. They look so great together:

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We also enjoyed meeting some great people on the crew. Bob Scott was our D.P. (War Room). Rebekah Cook, Gwendelynn Martindale, and our BTS crew.

I’m very thankful for Bill Reeves, the Working Title Agency team and the Provident team for inviting me to the party on this project.  It was fun to see two of them on set: (Bill Reeves & Laurie Chimento.)

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Lastly, we really loved meeting director / co-writer David Evans and his wife, Esther. Lovely people with great hearts. I loved knowing what he was envisioning from the page and then seeing him realize this dream.

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I look forward to seeing this story released in 2018.

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Extraordinary, the Movie

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We had a wonderful time in Lynchburg, VA visiting the set of my next movie. I co-wrote Extraordinary, which is the true story of Ultra-Marathon legend, David Horton. It was such fun to see the talented cast and crew bringing the story to life.

Scotty Curlee (producer, director, co-writer) has such great vision and innovative ideas for visuals. My husband and I learned a lot just watching him and his team work.

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David Horton is being played but Canadian actor / comedian, Leland Klassen. (We enjoyed discussing the story of my dual citizenship between US and Canada.)

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David Horton’s wife, Nancy, is being played by Shari Rigby (who we loved in the film, October Baby. I’m currently reading her riveting autobiography, Beautifully Flawed.) What a wonderful lady, inside and out.

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I was so happy Karen Abercrombie was cast in this film as Nina. I’ve written a project for her before, and then she played the forever-memorable role of “Miss Clara” in War Room. Cameron Arnett was cast as her husband, Mike. That was a thrill for us since we met him at our first film industry event in Atlanta.

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Two very delightful actresses to spend time with on set were Lindsley Register (as Allison Horton) and Taylor Lyons (as Becky).

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While I don’t have pictures of them, we also enjoyed getting to know other cast members, like Alex Bartz, Jeremy Webb, Chris Ashworth, and Jamie Ridgeway. Kirk Cameron is also in the cast but wasn’t shooting while we were in town.

Chris and I got to be extras during a race scene. Scotty put us right by the lead cast, so we had many opportunities to get to know them during the long days of standing around and “acting” when the cameras rolled:

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I can’t show too many set pictures because I don’t want to give away any story points. But here’s a few of Chris and I hanging around some locations:

And since it’s about a runner…why not get my running on?

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It was a joy to meet our Line Producer, Justin Tolley. I’ve heard wonderful things about him for years about his work on sets. He and his wife, Kara, shared their son’s first birthday with us on set.

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I have to say being on set reminded me why I love what I do. I love to connect with people, to use story to touch the hearts of others. Extraordinary is a story with a lot of heart to it, and it shares about the importance of prioritizing marriage and family. No goals or dreams should overshadow that. Not even my own desires for movie-making. This story will serve as a great reminder.

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Stop Waiting on Hollywood To Tell Your Story

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If you are anything like me as a writer, you don’t like waiting to see your work come to life. It’s often a long wait between movies getting filmed. I have one movie I co-wrote that is in production right now, but it’s been years since that’s happened. I’m thankful that during those years between I get the opportunity to work in novelizations. And that’s the process where my scripts get turned into novels.

I’m so thankful I was able to get to know the talented novelist, Rene Gutteridge, after she novelized my script for The Ultimate Gift. We went on to work on Never the Bride, Greetings from the Flipside, Love’s a Stage and O Little Town of Bethany. I also novelized Song of Springhill on my own, a story I’ve been working on since the late 90s. I so appreciate having an outlet to share stories, instead of waiting on productions to get funded. Releasing a story this way, I know it will get told in this one way. But naturally, the hope is it will also get considered as a film once it gains a reader base.

Have you thought of adapting your scripts into novels, so you could get in published while waiting for someone to take notice of your script?

Rene and I teach how to do this through our Udemy class, which is a mix of videos and PDF docs of our How To book. We’re offering this to friends, family and followers of our blogs for 50% off the original $30 price. So you can get the class for $15. So if this interests you, use the link below to get the discount.

https://www.udemy.com/novelizations-how-to-adapt-scripts-into-novels/?couponCode=Novel15

Here’s a description of the class from the Udemy website:

Are you a screenwriter who has wondered what it would be like to write your script as a novel? Are you tired of not seeing your work produced? Releasing your story as a novel is a great way to get it out there and see if you can find an audience. This could help Hollywood take notice. Novelizing your script is also a way to share your story with the world and not wait anymore. Especially in the age when self-publishing is available to all of us. I got tired of waiting for “Hollywood” to decide my stories were worth telling and started getting into the novelizations process after my film, The Ultimate Gift, was produced. I’ve done six of these now. One novelization on my own, and five with my writing partner, Rene Gutteridge, who has been a published novelist over thirty times. She’s also a produced screenwriter. This class will walk you through what has to change from screenwriting to novel writing. Rene Gutteridge joins me for quite a few of the video lectures so you have an expert in screenwriting and an expert in novel writing teaching this class. Each section has PDF downloads. Together these include all segments of our published book Novelizations: How to Adapt Scripts Into Novels. You’ll see real live samples from many of our published works so you can get a complete understanding for how a screenplay translates into the very different writing form of a novel.

PLEASE NOTE: Udemy estimates this class has 4.5 hours of lecture content. This includes both video lectures and written PDF documents. The run time on video content is approx. 100 minutes.

 

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Author Interview with Cheryl McKay

Author Janice L. Dick interviewed me for her website. Check it out here:

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Today’s author interview takes us to Los Angeles, California to speak with Cheryl McKay, author and screenwriter, as well as producer. Hello, Cheryl and thanks for taking time to share with my blog readers and me.

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Janice: How long have you been writing and how did you come to it?

CHERYL:  It started around the time I was 5 years old. I wrote a play based on my Winnie the Pooh lunch box and we acted it out for neighborhood kids. I was always writing plays and short stories. I wrote about 10 plays the year I was fifteen. Well, that’s what I called them. I didn’t realize they were actually screenplays. (Too many locations to be on a stage.) I’d write them on loose paper and then recopy neatly into a notebook, and that was my idea of “rewriting.” I began to study screenwriting in…

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Novelizations: How do you translate a script into a novel? A writing exercise.

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Have you ever thought about adapting your script into a novel? Have you wondered how the process of novelization works?  Rene Gutteridge and I have done a few of these together, and she’s done several with other screenwriters. We won a Carol Award / Book of the Year Award in the Women’s Fiction category of ACFW, for Never the Bride.

I also recently started adapting some of my scripts myself into novels. It’s hard work, but a very fun process. There’s definitely an art to it! It’s exactly the opposite of the process you’d go through to adapt a book into a screenplay (like I did with The Ultimate Gift). And getting your scripts out there as books just might help you get a movie made! And for novelists, you could find some good projects to work on that are about half the work of writing a novel from scratch.

On this blog, I’d like to show you one example from my screenplay Never the Bride. To follow are the first two pages of the screenplay:

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Now, before continuing to read this blog, go to your favorite book retailer and use the LOOK INSIDE or PREVIEW feature to read the first part of the novel from the opening to the point where Jessie drives off with her tire changed. (If you hop on a paperback version, you’re looking at pg. 1 through top of pg. 5.) The following link goes to Amazon’s Paperback or Google Books:

Never the Bride Sample on Amazon

Never the Bride Preview on Google Books

The sample included 1188 words, four printed novel pages vs. 472 words and two script pages. That’s two and a half times more words that were put into the novel to describe the same sequence.

This novel is in first-person, present tense, which gives us an active thought life from which to play. It’s like getting to write one long monologue as Jessie tells her own story.

For this blog, we’re going to focus on interior monologue (the subject of Chapter Six of our new “How To” book), one of the most useful tools exclusive to novelists that screenwriters are not allowed to use in scripts. The novel begins with the scene that starts on page two of the screenplay. It draws you into Jessie’s dilemma in a way the script simply cannot. She may be in the same predicament, but we get to spend a lot more time with Jessie, getting to know how she feels about life, her vulnerability, and her singleness. The interior monologue shares some of the information from the voice-over where Jessie is fantasizing about the life she wishes she had. Her journal habit, her hair color (and lack of blonde hair), what she sees as her ideal life. We find out she’s responsible with her job, is capable of taking care of herself, and how she feels about her boss. Even her boss’s character is set up here. All of this is revealed in the next part of the script, but in the novel this information comes out in the middle of Jessie’s crisis to reveal more about her character and life. The inner battle between her romantic optimism and her realistic cynicism shines through as well. The novel also takes a bit more time to describe the setting and the weather.

The interior monologue has a voice. It closely matches the style of Jessie’s voice from the script’s dialogue but is infused with additional humor and an openness you can’t have in a script without access to Jessie’s private thoughts.

Look at the segment of the script again where Jessie hopes the guy in the sports car will stop to help her. Then read over the novel version for that sequence. Notice the difference. Many of Jessie’s thoughts are shared during the part where she hopes the guy in the convertible will stop. We get to peek into what she’s thinking and feeling while anxiously waiting to see if he’ll help her. In reality, that scene on film would take just a few seconds, even if the director chooses to follow the slo-mo, brunette hair-blowing-in-the-wind dramatics. The novel allows us to pause and hear what flies through her mind in that moment, getting caught up in all her hopes and dreams of rescue. The script version is no less devastating to the character as she’s pelted with muddy water, yet the thoughts we get to read with Jessie in the novel are so enjoyable, so character revealing. We may even feel more for her in this moment because we got to stop and take the time to do so. Interior monologue replaces the visual of the muddy water. In book form, saying she was splattered with water does nothing because we can’t see her reaction to it, as an actress would depict it. So instead we have to go inside her head. The hope in film is that a cute and talented actress will garner some great empathy as well.

After the guy in the convertible does not stop and she decides to change her own tire, there is a sequence of her interior thought life about being single. It economically gives us an idea of what this character and story are about, what causes her pain, and she plainly states that she hates being alone. None of this exists in the screenplay, even though viewers are likely to get the same message watching an actress. Those internal thoughts voice the intention of the story of the screenplay, yet the script cannot be nearly that direct. However, notice how both the manuscript and the screenplay are moved forward with action.

The novel references the silhouette matching the man who was in her room after her nightmare. This matches the script without going into what her nightmare was about yet. It sets up that she saw this same, mysterious figure before.

This sample shows you the same sequence. It’s the same dramatic purpose. However, we traveled different writing roads to get there.

This scene is also an example of a change to the scene order (structure), as well as the challenge novelists face dealing with voice-over. This is especially true in this case where the voice-over does not match the visuals; the character is lying to herself about her reality.

We deal with all of those special challenges in translating a script into a novel in our book. This has been one sample, but we have many different samples in our new book, Novelizations: How to Adapt Scripts Into Novels.

To purchase a copy, click either on the paperback link or the kindle link below:


Novelizations – How to Adapt Scripts Into Novels: A Writing Guide for Screenwriters and Authors (Paperback)

Novelizations – How to Adapt Scripts Into Novels: A Writing Guide for Screenwriters and Authors (Kindle Version)

 

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What is your destiny?

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I went to a women’s conference this weekend in Los Angeles, CA called Ascend. This year’s focus: Fearless Joy.

One of the speakers, Deborah Pegues, said: “You were designed for destiny.” She also shared that in reference to how God sees us, “You are perfect for My purpose.” She encouraged everyone to embrace their uniqueness, not criticize themselves for flaws and imperfections. I loved one illustration she specifically had about writing. She said, “Is there anyone out there who feels destined to write a book?” Quite a few women raised their hands. She encouraged them to sit down in that chair in front of the computer and say, “Lord, I’ll be your typist. What’cha got?” Deborah never intended to be a writer, but kept sensing particular messages she was supposed to put out there, and now she has a book and speaking career.

One big difference with me is that I always knew I wanted to write from the time I was 5 years old. (I didn’t just want to: I would do it. I’d write stories and plays and make everyone in the neighborhood suffer through performances. :))

Whenever I teach writing classes I often encourage students to find that “one story only you can tell” merging your unique life experience with your storytelling desires and creativity (whether that is a non-fiction book, a fictional novel, or screenplay).

Have you questioned what you are supposed to be doing with your life? Ryan and Jayne Elliott have a website called CareerSighted that features videos with people from various professions. They recently came to my home and interviewed me about what it’s like to be a screenwriter and a novelist. Check out the video for an inside peek about what this profession is like. Click on the CareerSighted link to check it out:

CareerSighted Video: Screenwriter/Novelist

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How to use Pinterest for Inspiration as a Writer

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I only recently starting using Pinterest. When I first heard, “You should be on Pinterest,” I groaned. Just what I need. Another social media site to kill time on. I’m already on Facebook, Twitter (which I am NOT a fan of using), and my blogs. Why add another thing to my plate? But very quickly, it won me over. Besides the beautiful photos from all over the world, I found another use that has really helped inspire my writing.

Whenever I take on a new project, I enjoy finding pictures that go with the locations, props, costumes / wardrobe, etc of the time period or era I’m writing about. If it’s a modern day story, even just finding locations for where the movie version could shoot has been fun and helped me with descriptions.

For example, when writing my most recent romantic-comedy screenplay, Love’s a Stage, I used Pinterest to find all sorts of Thanksgiving wedding decoration ideas. I didn’t necessarily want to have a Thanksgiving wedding board on my page, so I didn’t pin them to any particular board. But as a resource, the visuals I found were very inspiring as I wrote those scenes.  I did make a colonial board for that story to go along with some of the pilgrim research in the story.

Pinterest Board for Love’s a Stage

Pinterest can be especially helpful when you are researching  a particular industry or time period. I made 2 boards while working on Song of Springhill. (It’s already a screenplay but is currently in the works as a novel.) One is about the location and mining industry. The other is about the era, the 1950s.

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Pinterest Board for Song of Springhill

The 1950s Pinterest Board

I did a lot of Danish research for a current project, looking at Denmark, Solvang, CA, Elk Horn, IA, and everything from locations to food, outfits, and shoes. Making that board made me so excited about writing the project.

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Pinterest Board for Windmill Falls

While Pinterest didn’t exist yet when I first starting writing the screenplay version of Never the Bride (or the novel), I’ve been able to use it while the script version is in development to be shot as a film, and will be able to use it for inspiration when penning its sequel, Forever the One.

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Pinterest Board for Never the Bride: the movie

A Word about using Pinterest to Market Yourself as Writer

It’s often suggested that we, as writers, make our Pinterest boards in a way that can have some appeal to others who are interested in a particular topic. Most boards shouldn’t just be dedicated to a particular book or project in a way that may not appeal to others.  So it’s suggested you choose a category for your board that has a broad appeal topically if you are hoping this board will bring awareness to you and your projects (books, movies, etc). Some projects may warrant their own board (like we chose to do with the Never the Bride board.) But the other boards, like the one for Windmill Falls or Love’s a Stage, I went with broader categories like Danish Living and All About Colonial. That way, those interested in those topics will follow the board.

For my non-fiction projects, instead of doing a board that is just for my books Finally Fearless: Journey from Panic to Peace or Finally the Bride: Finding Hope While Waiting, I chose to make boards with broader topics, like:

Find Freedom from Fear

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Hope For Singles

Remember: in using Pinterest as a writer, it’s not just about selling books or DVDs. It’s about connecting with people, your readers and viewers, and giving them something that is useful to them just by visiting your page (or your blog if your Pinterest pins also link to a particular blog like this one).

Follow me on Pinterest

Click Here to Learn More about my Books & Movies

Now, go make your writing more Pinspiring!

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Plotting is Better In Color

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(Reprint of article written by Cheryl McKay for Independent Filmmaking in Focus) My organizationally-challenged, creative friends think I’m maddeningly structured. (Sorry, friends!) Perhaps I am. But I’d love to share a method that gets my creative juices flowing when organizing, … Continue reading