I sent an email out to Pemberly Digital asking them a few questions about adaptation a few weeks ago and forgot to post it up here! It was really helpful in me analyzing what I wanted to do with the game. Since I had to funnel down the information from Ready Player One down into something more manageable in the amount of time I had. A big Thank You Adrian for responding to my questions!
How do you go about choosing which parts of the story should be part of the adaptation? Is there’s a specific process?
There’s no specific process, we always are making it up as we go. In general we start out with an idea – like Elizabeth Bennet as a grad student with a video blog – and then take the book chunk by chunk. Film a month, write a month, film a month etc. But we try to always keep a character driven perspective. So in terms of which parts of the adaptation to keep in, we have to consider where each character starts and where they’re going. Can that character still get where they need to go if we cut out X? If the answer is yes, then we’re probably better off without it. Things get left out if they feel redundant, if we just can’t make them work for the new setting, or if we feel like we’re trying to squeeze something in only as a reference to original text, and not because it serves our character and their story.
Also, as embarrassing as it is to admit, tools like sparknotes have been a big help to us. Not because we don’t read the original text (believe me, we do) but because it’s easy way to understand the commonly accepted ‘big plot points’. This big plot points are the imperatives. You’ll notice that the Pride and Prejudice sparknotes plot summary only mentioned the three Bennet sisters: Elizabeth, Jane and Lydia. This isn’t how we decided to only have the three of them as sisters in the show, but I think it confirms that our instincts were right.
Do you have suggestions on how I should approach rereading my book for the adaptation?
What you’re doing is going to be very different that what we do, I’m afraid. When we read, we’re thinking about what world we’re going to put the book in and what kind of modern people have the same flaws as these fictional people. You’re going to making a game though, I and feel like that probably takes a totally different thought process. I haven’t actually read Ready Player One (I know about it though) but it seems like an interesting choice. Since you’ve already made a decision about your format, just knowing that will help you when you re-read. You can think about all the questions of game design, and also figure out a meta-game strategy. (Since your book focuses on the main character playing games.) You can have a list of questions that you ask yourself when you go in for the reread such as: Is your game going to be in first person or third person? Does the person playing the game take on the role of Wade? If so, how do you lead them towards making the same choices that Wade made and take them through the narrative? How do you make the player feel like they have agency? How do you incorporate Wade’s in-game life and out of game life in your game?
What are some challenges that you face in adapting a book into a series?
Because our shows are vlog style, we always struggle with what to show and what not to show in the main videos. Some important events just don’t make sense within our conceit (everyone asks “why would she be filming right now? why would she put this on the internet?”) so we have to find ways around that using transmedia.
Since your series span multiple mediums how do you focus down which parts go on which platform?
A quote from Bernie: “As for the synergy between the writer’s room and the transmedia team, for LBD the writer’s room went first. Block out the episodes, figure out what’s happening for the next few months, get that locked down, and assign the episodes out. Once that’s done the transmedia team would then work around what’s there. The evolution to present day Emma Approved is that the writing team is actually smaller while the interactive team has grown and is now larger. There was more going on in EA non-video wise on a week by week basis so we’ve grown the team. But since our very rough start of the show interactive wise, I feel there is a lot more synergy because it really is just one big room now. So even though we still block out the episodes by month. Basically, we don’t have writer meetings with transmedia support scrambled together later, we now just have story meetings where we cover everything. So if you get anything from my answer, it’s that. Think of it all as part of the story.”