Converting a screenplay to a novel: Rocket Summer – the Bun excerpt

rocket summer movie posterAnother excerpt from the slowly evolving project of converting a screenplay into a novel.

What these kids are doing  is dangerous. Someone could die.

So they’ve cobbled together a safety feature. But it needs testing… and none of them want to be the guinea pig.


There’d been some discussion over whether the seat should be tested with someone in it or not, and somehow it had been resolved by strapping a giant pink stuffed rabbit into the harness. It was a ratty old thing, as big as a fourth grader, with open seams and worn ears, and one plastic eye turned permanently sideways. Kenny assured everyone he’d long outgrown it and was happy to donate it to the cause, but he still insisted on being the one to belt it in and Lacey was pretty sure he was talking to it as he did.

Darlene tied a rope to the red ring, and they knelt behind the truck. She handed the rope to Kenny, slapped his helmet. “Ready?”

“Ready.” He yanked the rope, which yanked the ring.

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Screenplay to Novel: Rocket Summer – the haircut

rocket summer movie posterIt’s time for a new excerpt of the slowly project of converting a screenplay into a novel.

So I may have been giving up too much information (spoilers) in the previous posts.

I’ll try to stop that.

These kids will do anything for this project of theirs… even get a haircut.

Why? One day you’ll be able to buy the book and find out…

The haircut:

The barber lifted the helmet off Kenny’s head, revealing ridiculous helmet-head hair pointing every which way like yellow crabgrass. The bib was snug around Kenny’s neck, and it put him in a mind of uncomfortable family gatherings and too-tight button down shirts with clip on ties, and he gulped against it. He absently bobbed his hands under the striped cloth and watched it float back down.

The barber turned, a pair of scissors in hands that shook like he was salting eggs. They were the kind of scissors that should be used to cut the ribbon at a new grocery store, with blades the size of carving knives. His other palsied hand slid a long black comb out of a tall jar of blue water, and Kenny realized that he’d actually rather be at an uncomfortable family gathering in a too tight shirt than here in this chair right now.

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Screenplay to Novel: Rocket Summer – On Darlene

rocket summer movie posterIt’s time for a new excerpt of the slowly project of converting a screenplay into a novel.

Those who have followed this project from its inception know that the characters have had their genders reversed. Not in the context of the story, but as a practical point.

Originally, the lead boy was Charlie. He had a crush on Lacey, and was best friends with Davey. Davey had a big brother, Mike, who they had to invite into their summer project because he had a truck and a driver’s license. Charlie hated Mike. Not just because he was a huge jerk (he was) but also because Lacey had a crush on Mike.

During the editing process, the producers felt they had a better shot at selling the film if it revolved around a female lead. So Charlie became Lacey, Lacey became Charlie, and Mike became Darlene.

So Lacey’s problem is that she likes Charlie, but Charlie likes Darlene.

Darlene still needed to be all the things Mike had been: older, a badass, and handy with a wrench. And the object of someone’s desires.

Here’s my take on Darlene…

On Darlene:

Out in the sun like that, Darlene glowed, her green eyes framed by shocks of blond hair that had fallen from her loose pony tail, and Charlie basked in it. Without the grease and sweat the architecture of her face was clear: a composition of features that individually might be too strong, but together were almost classical. It was easy to imagine her chiseled from marble, a sword in her hands, one foot on a slain dragon.

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Novelizing a Screenplay: Rocket Summer – the Berta excerpt.

rocket summer movie posterHere’s the latest excerpt on the slowly progressing process of converting a screenplay into a novel.

Berta was a character that originally had a much bigger part in the story… she was inspired a bit by the storyline in Breaking Away, where the kid has to get a job at the local car wash. He’s derided by his pals for taking the job (and being responsible) and is so incensed by the whole thing that he quits before he even starts, punching the time clock (literally) and walking off before his first shift begins.

I always felt like that was an interesting story point, but that by having him quit right away, we missed an opportunity to see how the experience of working  might have affected the story.

Berta was my take on that… Lacey’s boss at the job Lacey hates. But I kept Lacey on the job, because I felt it was part of her maturation process. Through all the edits, Berta’s part has been mightily whittled down, but I’ve brought some of it back in the novel.


The kitchen at The Angry Bull wasn’t any better than the dining room. Lacey was standing at the sink under flickering fluorescent lights, running hot water and watching the steam bead up and run down the greasy yellow wall, when Berta rolled in. She was a big woman, completely obscuring the seat of the electric scooter that wheezed somewhere beneath her. Tiny dimpled nicotine stained baby hands clenched the little handlebars. She talked around the cigar butt clenched in her teeth, and her voice was gravel in a tin can. “Lacey! Why you standin’ around? I pay you to stand around?”

Lacey shifted her weight. The sticky floor smacked like wet lips under her sneakers. “Just waitin’ for the washer to finish. Should be done in a sec’.”

“You got time to lean, you got time to clean.” Berta jabbed toward the sink with a pink sausage finger. “You see that crap around the drain? That black crap? That ain’t supposed to be there. You scrape that crap up while you’re waitin’.” She tossed the cigar butt into the sink. “Then the garbage goes out to the dumpster. Tomorrow’s pickup day. Time is money, girl. Time is money.”

She jockeyed her scooter around, and buzzed slowly away to her office.

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Novelizing a screenplay: Rocket Summer – excerpt

rocket summer movie posterThe screenplay novelization of Rocket Summer is coming along… Here’s the latest excerpt.

Straws Don’t Lie:

Drawing straws was something they’d relied on since forever, like pinkie swears and cross-your-hearts. No law was held in higher regard, you couldn’t argue with the results, there was no whining, and there were no do-overs.

Lacey plucked some twigs from the ground, and started breaking them into pieces.

Darlene rolled her eyes. “Oh, give me a break.”

Lacey inspected the broken straws, handed them out. She brushed a spot clear in the dirt. Then, like a million times before, she, Charlie and Kenny bounced their hands three times, called “Short Man Out”, and slapped their palms down on the ground.

Kenny and Charlie slowly lifted their hands. Their straws were the same length. Lacey made a dramatic show of it, leaned her face near the ground, and peeked under her palm. She grinned, and lifted her hand.

Her straw matched the others.

Darlene watched this whole thing with some amusement. She knew what she had; it wasn’t what was in her hand but how she played it, as there was more than a little bit of bluffing going on here. She eyed the others, shrugged, and slapped her hand down in the dirt. Lifted it.

Her straw was clearly the shortest.

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