In the wake of his father’s death, Mark Taylor thinks he and his son, Evan need some quality time together. He is certain that a weekend at the family cabin in the Missouri woodland presents the perfect opportunity and will strengthen their bond. But as darkness falls, their stay becomes a terrifying fight for survival against a savage night creature straight out of the annals of cryptozoology, with little more than faith, desperate courage and a single cabin door providing their only means of defense. With Mark badly injured, dawn too far away, their generator running out of power, and no means of calling for help, they are ultimately left with a single heart-rending option that might let one of them survive to see another day.
It’s been a long time coming, since I conceived of MOMO as a film, when I was a boy, inspired by the 1951 thriller, TheThing From Another World, and the 1976 “docudrama,” Sasquatch:The Legend of Bigfoot. I determined then to one day make “a real good and scary Bigfoot movie.” This came to pass in 2010, when, after studying the subgenre of “hairy hominid” films and flicks, quantified what engendered an effective thriller, resulting in, MOMO, my award-winning script.
However, when efforts to crowdfund the feature film project were unsuccessful, my wife suggested I “write the book and get it out there.” And, while screenwriters today debate the question of whether, or how, to adapt their screenplays into novels, I found the prospect daunting, even though I had experience in adapting novels into screenplays. You see, writing novels and scripts employ two very different approaches—so much so, in fact, that I personally cannot work on a novel at the same time I’m writing a screenplay. It just messes up my equilibrium.
Having said that, I can tell you that I have read novels that were written by screenwriters, and scripts by novelists, who were obviously unaware of the differences between the two formats. The uninitiated screenwriter might copy and paste his script to Word and then change the tense of the text from present tense to past tense, add some italicized thoughts to the characters and be done with it. On the other hand, a novelist might unwittingly approach a script like a novel, including the thoughts and feelings of the character—or even the writer’s own, instead of writing only what can be seen and heard on-screen. But I digress.
I quickly realized that while the novel needed to be faithful enough to the script to satisfy would-be MOMO movie aficionados, there were differences that had to be employed. The opening of MOMO the screenplay, for example, is different that the novella, because I felt that one worked better cinematically than it did in the novelization.
Since I knew well the plot, the main challenges had to do with how to flesh out the characters, which, in the script, could only be characterized by dialog and action. This actually gave me freedom to expand and go deeper into the characters’ psyche from the perspective of each of the two main characters, alternating between them.
I knew the novelization, would require equal parts science and talent. Effective writing is sculpting prose that compels the reader to continue the journey you offer to them, to care about your protagonist, to become invested in the world between the book covers. It’s one thing to write the facts: “The little boy was sad and cried.” It’s another to write the facts effectively (I keep using that word) and evocatively, that makes a reader want to continue to read: “He felt as though his chest would burst and hot tears burned rows through the soot on his cheeks.” Additionally, using active, rather than passive words and phrases, can’t be overemphasized.
As in screenwriting, using passive words—“the boy was sad and crying” reads less smoothly than an active alternative—“the boy was sad and cried” and that less than “the boy cried.” It’s psychological, but passive words that end in I-N-G, after was, “slow down” the reading when the reader desires a need to find out what’s going to happen next. In fact, in screenwriting, a bit of advice I give writers is to go through the script and, wherever an I-N-G word is found, replace it with the active alternative. This can work similarly in other creative writing, and I guarantee that it will improve your work in the eyes of your readers. They may not even be able to verbalize why it reads better. But it does.
Of course, the Taylors themselves had to not only be believable but empathetic. While I couldn’t relate to their specific interpersonal problems, I could put myself in their places, transferring, like an actor might to a role, my evoked emotions to them, thus making them immediately identifiable to my readers. One cares about what happens to them
Employing what I’ve described has resulted in my novella being lauded as, “a page turner,” a “thriller novella done right,” “a powerful novella,” and an “inspirational story of love and faith,” I invite you to read MOMO to see my techniques demonstrated and perhaps adopt them yourself to create your own effective thriller.
Now, if I can just get the movie made…
Kevin M. Kraft
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About the Author
Kevin M. Kraft is an award-winning author, novelist and screenwriter, as well as a singer-songwriter, cigar box guitar guru (and founder of the annual KC Cigar Box Guitar Festival), actor, motion picture director and producer in Kansas City, Missouri, where he currently resides with his wife and children, for whom, despite all he does, he still makes plenty of time for. With the publication of his novel, S: A Contemporary Religious Fantasy, he introduced a new type of novel: the "contemporary religious fantasy." With a love for great storytelling, he hopes to set a new standard for broad-based, inspirational fiction with the publication of his inspirational thriller, MOMO. Mr. Kraft enjoys getting feedback from readers and welcomes you to do so either at Lulu, Facebook or at his official website. You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kevkraft