11 Famous Authors That Became Screenwriters

A guest post by Ken Miyamoto

Some of the greatest films of all time, in a wide variety of genres, have been adapted from short stories and novels.

Despite the fact that the literary and cinematic storytelling mediums are often vastly different, some talented writers have managed to bridge the gap between the two — to varying degrees of success. But crossing that bridge is no easy venture.

Screenwriting is a visual medium, so those writing screenplays do not have the benefit of being able to write detailed back stories and inner thoughts of characters. Every single line of scene description and dialogue translates to the screen, which is why screenwriters can’t go into such detail. They have 90-120 pages — give or take — to convey a visual story. One page equals one minute of screen time.

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Image: Ernest Hemingway with a bull near Pamplona, Spain in 1927, two years before A Farewell to Arms would be published.
Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

A guest post by Verna Kale

When he published The Sun Also Rises in 1926, Ernest Hemingway was well-known among the expatriate literati of Paris and to cosmopolitan literary circles in New York and Chicago. But it was A Farewell to Arms, published in October 1929, that made him a celebrity.

With this newfound fame, Hemingway learned, came fan mail. Lots of it. And he wasn’t really sure how to deal with the attention.

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How Kazuo Ishiguro's Writing Won Him the Nobel Prize in Literature – According to Research

Image: Kazuo Ishiguro in 2017. EPA Images

A guest post by Sara Whiteley

Kazuo Ishiguro has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and, as a long-term scholar and fan of Ishiguro, I feel compelled to join the celebration. The Swedish academy aptly described Ishiguro’s works as possessing “great emotional force” which “uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world”. But in an interview posted on the Nobel Prize website, Ishiguro offered a narrower statement of his interest in wordly connections, saying:

One of the things that’s interested me always is how we live in small worlds and big worlds at the same time: that we have a personal arena in which we have to try and find fulfilment and love, but that inevitably intersects with a larger world, where politics, or even dystopian universes, can prevail. So I think I’ve always been interested in that. We live in small worlds and big worlds at the same time and we can’t … forget one or the other.

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Vladimir and Vera Nabokov in 1969.
Giuseppe Pino, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

A post by Camilla Nelson

It started when an American academic noticed how frequently the acknowledgements sections of weighty academic tomes featured a male author thanking his nameless wife for typing. The Conversation

The academic, Bruce Holsigner, began sharing the screenshots on Twitter under the hashtag #ThanksforTyping.

And the response was stupendous. As the screenshots flooded in, a veritable army of unpaid women suddenly became visible. Not only were they typing, and retyping, but translating and editing and – um – doing the actual research.

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Each year for the past three years we’ve taken a trip in a bookish time machine to take a look back what readers were devouring 30 years ago (see the bestseller lists from 1983, 1984 and 1985). In 1986, while Mikhail Gorbachev was introducing Perestroika and Glasnost. and the world was being shown a special version of “Australian culture” courtesy of Crocodile Dundee, these were the novels that American readers were enjoying.

 

10. A Perfect Spy by John le Carré

A Perfect Spy by John le Carre 1986

David John Moore Cornwell published his first novel, Call for the Dead in 1961 under the pen name John le Carré. Cromwell served in the Security Service and the Secret Intelligence Service (AKA MI5 and MI6) in the 1950s and 1960s and the author admits that this is his most autobiographical novel, with a large part of the story being a thinly disguised account of his own early life. In A Perfect Spy British Intelligence Officer Magnus Pym mysteriously disappears after attending his father’s funeral. His colleagues soon discover that Pym was a double agent, working as a spy for the Czechoslovak secret service (though this wasn’t a personal experience that the author and Pym shared). le Carré reflected that “writing A Perfect Spy is probably what a very wise shrink would have advised”. Philip Roth described A Perfect Spy as “the best English novel since the war.”
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