Article published on April 12, 2016.
I’m a writer who loves TV drama. Shocking I know. The fashionable thing is to say ‘it’s not as good as the book’ but some lucky evening slots, I realise that what I’m watching is better than the book. Yes, you read that right. Better.
The idea that novels are more culturally valuable than television is an interesting one. Please don’t get me wrong. Novels are immensely valuable – they are the basis of all story in our culture and alongside poetry, one of two forms of written art that is the sole vision of the writer. Every other kind of story relies on teamwork. In this sense, the making of a great TV drama, is actually a bigger feat to bring off. A huge team of people have to do their job well, to make that 46 minute (or 59 minute, depending on channel) slot work.
I recently had my 1950s Mirabelle Bevan Mystery series optioned by STV Productions. When I nipped down to London to meet the producers I could see they were wary of ‘writers’ and their expectations, but within five minutes of the tea being brewed we were heavily into a conversation about which television adaptations were our favourites. The relief around the table was palpable and we talked for ages about why Poirot held Sunday night viewers in its grip for over a decade in the mid-80s and how serious subjects could be dealt with a light touch.
As well as writing the original Mirabelle Bevan books (where I am the sole creator) I now feel part of the team that is helping to develop my stories into a new media. This is an exciting challenge. Readers often say that I write visually, but that is different from writing for a visual medium or understanding the differences in how a story works when told over an hour or two as opposed to being told over 350 pages of text. I’m lucky that the producers love my characters and the period as much as I do. A couple of weeks ago I was down in London again and this time we met up to discuss screenwriters. I’ve written a couple of short films (one was even nominated for a Sky Movies Max award) but I’d never dare make such a big leap myself. And besides, I have the books to write. So I’m dying to meet the wordsmith (and in this case picturesmith) who will take my story off the page and onto the screen.
Fingers crossed I am sitting on my sofa the night the first episode airs and I think ‘why didn’t I do it this way?’ Then I’ll know, we got it right.