I’ve been asked to read a book with a view to adapting it as a drama series. I’ve never done an adaptation – I was asked once to do David Copperfield but I ended up writing a stonking big script about Steerforth (a far more interesting character than faceless David) and although the producer and I loved it, the broadcasters didn’t, so it never got made. I suppose I must have been sent a dozen books to consider over the years and I usually get to the third chapter and say ‘No, thanks’ but this one is holding my attention.
There is a problem, however. There’s not a lot of action in it and telly gobbles up action. There’s not a lot of passion or conflict in it and that’s the stuff of drama. And I’m not great at plotting so if I’m going to adapt something, I’d quite like it to have a good sturdy plot to save me that bit of head scratching, but it simply doesn’t have any plot at all (or not so far). So, no action, conflict, drama or plot. Why am I still reading it?
That’s where the difficulty lies – I like the writing. It’s thoughtful and honest and open. Occasionally she veers over into pseud’s corner (Private Eye) or becomes self indulgent with lavish adjectives and a sort of soaring romanticism, but her heart is true. And here’s the rub – if it’s to be a series, that sort of language (even the good stuff, non-flowery) is no good to me. Drama is frank, plain, every day language. Real dialogue. Drama isn’t poetic and heaven-bound, it’s earthy; all about subtext and the-games-people-play, recognising the true motives, the power moves, clocking the insidious poor-me whines of manipulation, seeing where true courage lies, ferreting out reluctant and hidden heroes. The best lines are the silences between words.
That’s not where this book’s strength lies, but it has real strength. It paints great pictures and I like the writer and her family. I enjoy the awkwardness of her marriage, and I recognise my own marriage in hers. In short, I believe her.
Of course the producers know that this isn’t the unvarnished stuff of a drama series, and they’ve already signalled that we will have to leave the style and story of the book quite significantly, to troll off on our own merry (hopefully returning series) way.
This is the problem, the quandary: If we ever make the thing, I know that when she watches it she will be disappointed, will feel cheated, but there’s nothing I can do about that. I know that the people who have read the book and love it will feel cheated. But there’s nothing I can do about that. Poetry doesn’t translate into drama. When writers try to work the impossible magic for the pragmatic monster of television, they are on a hiding to nothing.
But, you know what, I like the writing so much, I’m reading onwards. I may even do the treatment. I’ll certainly meet the producers. Why? Because I want the writer to know that a dramatist has read her words and loves them. Even the flowery ones.
Who knows, I may write it after all.
Listen, my little froodlepips: tomorrow I am SEVENTY. Because I have a problem with numbers I have done the sum several times today just to make sure that I’m not kidding anyone. But on 2nd December 1948 Mary Gannon became my Mum and Paddy (Gerard) Gannon became my Dad. Mary didn’t hang around for long, and Paddy was away more than he was home, and life wasn’t always fabulous but LOOK! I’ve made it to three score years and ten!
I’ve just eaten a piece of brioche and had a glass of red wine in anticipation. Have you tried brioche and red wine? No? Its a good combo.
I have been given a book, (not to adapt this time), called ‘Hope in the Dark.’ I think I may never read it, but I love the people who gave it to me so maybe, just maybe, an outside chance, I will. The strap line is ‘Believing God is good, when life is not.’ Sounds fab. I’m sure it’s a great book. But it has never occurred to me, even when I was off doing mad bad and dangerous things, that God was anything but entirely good. I’m not saintly or holy, it just never occurred to me. I’ve always, on the other hand, known that I am anything BUT good.
Tomorrow I tell a children’s story in church. We have five minutes (but most go on for much much longer) and I’ve just timed it- 4 minutes 30 seconds. I’m going to talk about how good God is. I mean, come on, I can’t actually talk about how good He is because there aren’t words to do that job, certainly not in 4.30′ but I’m going to give it a bash. The way I’m going to explore His goodness is by looking at His creation. You and me.
It won’t be about me, it will be about the children. But God knows what’s in my heart, sheer thankfulness. Unalloyed.
He made something, helpless and weak, 70 years ago, and He brought me through hell and high water, to this evening, to tomorrow (if I don’t peg it in the night) and I want to say a great big juicy ‘thank you’ to my God. And to you, everyone who reads this, everyone I know, everyone I’ve come across in my life. You are part of the weft and weave of life, my shambling bonkers life. Tonight, my dumplings, I am one happy old woman.
Isaiah 46:4 Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.