In translating from novel to screen ways to reveal errant thoughts are limited. Television, comedies in particular has created novel methods to visualise errant thoughts.

Are there any examples where an author has returned a screen technique back to literature. I'm particularly interested in integrated transitions; where the author drifts into nonsense without pre-able. No warning, no 'her mind drifted' or 'she imagined'. I'm looking for an example of a smooth blend.

I do not want a critique. I'm posting the draft opening of "Damaged" as an example.

In anticipation of dessert, Portia Clements watched the waiter until he disappeared into the restaurant kitchen. She returned her attention to her husband. "We haven't done this in while," she said, smiling. "We should do this more often."

Her husband drained the last of the Scotch from his glass. "I've met somebody else," he announced.

Portia, winded by the blow, winced. What cruelty! He'd brought her out to a very public place to drop this bombshell. "Oh," she responded. Breathe, be calm. You don't want to create a scene.

"I'm leaving you."

Don't cause a scene. Portia concentrated on maintaining controlled breaths through her nose. "I see." She stared at him. His lips were moving but she could no longer hear his words. In her peripheral vision she noticed a heart, her heart, the heart that he'd just ripped out of her chest. It was lying on the restaurant floor. Opposite her, her husband was still speaking. His lips were still moving – reciting some speech that'd he'd carefully prepared earlier. After 7 years of marriage, Portia knew her husband pretty well – this would be a long speech. She sneaked another peak at her heart. It was in bad shape but it was still beating. Best pick it up before he stomps all over it. As he continued his monologue she reached down, picked up her heart, and performed a cursory examination. It's damaged – but it still works. She wrapped the heart in a napkin and tucked it away into her purse. Maybe somebody else will still want it? Maybe I should find somebody else to give it to?

Audio service was resumed.

"I want a divorce," said her husband.

Portia smiled. Is the 5 second-rule a real thing?


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    What is the novel method you speak of? All I can see is a metaphor where her mental state is described by talking about a physical heart. But somehow I doubt that is what you were talking about. I am probably just too tired to think straight... May 22, 2017 at 1:06
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    I fail to detect any particular technique or method in the provided except.
    – Lew
    May 23, 2017 at 4:08
  • I hate explaining stuff! Basics: Show don't tell. If you don't fully understand it - watch a movie. Movies cannot tell without using a voice-over. Subsequently, things like metaphors could not be translated to screen. This changed the advent of first cartoons and later special effects - the result was usually comedy. Somebody being 'over the moon' was shown literally. Essentially, we are using the TV technique in a literature - literally showing a ridiculous expression.
    – Surtsey
    May 23, 2017 at 9:36

1 Answer 1


Characterization, the thoughts and feelings of a character, is conveyed to the actors through character notes and stage directions. It is up to the actors, (often under direction), to convey the non-verbal elements in a convincing manner.

While voiceovers or asides have been used for such things in the past, they are best used sparingly if at all because they have the effect of breaking the "fourth wall", which can bring an element of comedy into a scene for which it is unintended.

I suggest analyzing this internal dialogue for stage directions. For example, "Breathe, be calm. You don't want to create a scene" can be directed as "Takes slow, deep breaths: holds onto table edge to steady self: glances around at other patrons".

I'm afraid most of the analogous exposition about her heart simply doesn't translate to a screenplay. This is not unusual and is one of the big reasons screenplays are usually a fraction of the size of the novels on which they are based.

Translating a novel to a screenplay means concentrating on the answers to the questions of "How does this look?" and "How does this sound?" to tell the audience the answer to the question of "What does this mean?"

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