I left the original first draft unfinished in the middle of Chapter 9 in 2007. But I decided to finish writing that chapter this week so I could conclude the first act of All About Marilyn with a cliffhanger.
So why didn’t I finish the book? Well, I felt most of the depth and substance was lost in the translation between the novel and the screenplay. In the screenplay there were these powerful elements of contrast, irony, foreshadowing and symbolism. The characters there were a lot richer, more complex, and more layered. I really felt the novel’s story was kind of one-dimensional compared to the screenplay.
It frustrated me how theme of contrast was missing from the novel. In the screenplay, the contrast theme is a critical component to the structure of Marilyn’s story. In the script I set up a series of visual contrasts so the reader could see the difference between Hollywood’s celebrity fantasy and real life. That theme wasn’t coming across clearly in the early draft of the novel the way I wanted it to.
I also felt a major piece of symbolism was lost in the novel translation. In the novel the reader really doesn’t see how Marilyn’s life is fragmented in the scene where she’s in her apartment. In the screenplay we clearly see the two worlds Marilyn Marie lives in with the pictures in her living room and her bedroom. In the living room, the public space in a home the pictures tell the story of the Marilyn Marie the public knows, a faded Hollywood starlet. Meanwhile the bedroom the most private space in a home the pictures tell the story of the Marilyn Marie her friends know, a kind Christian woman with close family and friends. The symbolism of the two rooms is supposed to be concluded in her New York apartment when all the pictures come together to tell the story of a whole Marilyn Marie, with the final nude sketch, a rough unfinished work representing her future.
And it wasn’t coming across how Marilyn’s Television show All About Nikki was actually a reflection of the world she lived in with the novelization. I wanted readers to ponder: Does Television influence real life? Or does real life influence Television? When Marilyn is tormented by the Nikki Desmonds of the world like Lori, Natalie, and Holly in the screenplay it feels like she’s been living in the Twilight Zone for the past fifteen years. However, in the novel it didn’t really come across that Marilyn was being victimized by twisted reflections of the character she played on television.
I also felt readers wouldn’t really get to see Tabatha’s meth fueled insanity clearly. Since the entire book would have been told from Marilyn’s perspective, I felt readers wouldn’t understand Tabatha’s motivation or the reasons for her paranoid Meth-fueled rampage. With the screenplay we really see the paranoia associated with Tabatha’s meth use and how her drug-addled fear builds into the powerful climax at the conclusion of act one.
Even more frustrating to me I felt the novel really wouldn’t convey the surrealness of the fight between Marilyn and Tabatha. From the Master Shot perspective of the screenplay we see the fight as the kids see it, a catfight between Tabatha Strong and Nikki Desmond. In the kids’ eyes, Marilyn and Tabatha aren’t people; they’re characters they see on TV. So the fight happening in front of them is like some tabloid TV show footage. It doesn’t become real to the Clown (His character is the representation of people in the real world) until Marilyn is losing, and reality really doesn’t sink in for the rest of the kids in until Tabatha’s meth-fueled violence gets bloody. That’s when the dream twists into a nightmare that makes the audience see the real people behind their fantasies.
But seeing where I made my mistakes four years later, I’m tempted to finish writing the remaining two acts of the All About Marilyn novel and abridge the first act with the new opening scenes from the final draft of the screenplay. From the chapters I’ve already written I feel the novel has promise. I wonder if I can fit those layers and substance in the story and make the novel as rich and multidimensional as the screenplay. While the story is simple, there’s so much great subtext in Marilyn’s story. It’d be a challenge to translate all those great literary elements going on between the lines of the screenplay to the pages of the novel and try to capture the spirit of the screenplay in a new medium.
A return to articles are gonna be delayed for a while. Big News on the reason why on Monday!