Excerpt from a post I wrote more than fifteen years ago but still think is germane:
What is a screenplay-novel?
It's a novel. But it's written in the form of a screenplay.
How did you get the idea of writing a screenplay-novel?
Over time, it dawned on me that I treated movies the way I treated novels: I would appreciate their stories in a similar way, and talk about them afterwards the way a person might talk about a novel. In fact, I do this more often with movies ... mainly, I think, because nowadays movie-watchers vastly outnumber novel readers. There are many people you can have a conversation with about a particular movie, even a very serious movie. It's a lot harder to do that about a particular book, especially if it's literary.
One "aha" moment for me was reading the published screenplay of "Out of
And then there's the creative process involved: Unless writing autobiographically, I like imagining scenes as if they were in a movie. My imagination seems to naturally work that way.
Has this idea been done before?
There's a long tradition of writing satire in the form of a screenplay -- you know, some imagined scene, for example, some inane conversation in the White House. And there is a tradition of teleromans in some countries. These are basically comics made of photographs, not drawings.
But there are no examples of a literary novel written in screenplay form that I've seen. At least, this was true when the idea first came to me. Since then, people have given me examples. One was a script by Michael Turner entitled "American Whisky Bar". I haven't read the book, so I can't comment on it. But some time after it was published, it was produced by CITY-TV and Bruce McDonald as a live television drama. I saw that broadcast. The broadcast was really more like a 1950s-style televised play than anything else. So I don't know if it qualifies.
Personally, I think people will come up with other examples and this will turn into a long-running debate over who was first. And I doubt it will ever be satisfactorily resolved. Instead, what I'd like to emphasize is I'm calling for the screenplay-novel to exist as a distinct form of novel. In other words, I'm hoping that many serious writers will adopt this way of writing novels -- at least, for some of their work.