DR. MEL'S MESSAGE - From my novels to my other projects, no telling what you will read. This is the only place you will get to read about how I developed a screenplay into a novel and what is the driving force. I will talk about many things from films to books to acting to producing. It really will depend on where my mind takes me. I hope you will join me on this journey.
How to Write a Treatment for a Book to Pitch to Producers
When you've penned a fantastic book, the next logical step might be to see it come alive on the silver screen. But between the pages of your book and the rolling credits of a film lies the essential bridge of a treatment. A treatment provides a detailed outline of your story, giving producers a clear vision of its potential as a film. In this guide, we'll dive deep into the art of writing a treatment for your book.
What is a Treatment?
At its core, a treatment is a narrative tool. It's a condensed version of your story detailing main events, character arcs, and the visual feel of potential scenes. Unlike a screenplay which breaks down dialogue and scenes, a treatment captures the essence of the story in a format palatable for producers.
Steps to Writing a Compelling Treatment:
Begin with a Logline: A logline is a concise, one-to-two-sentence summary of your story. This will be the hook to grab a producer's attention.
Introduce the Main Characters: Provide a brief description of each main character, their motivations, conflicts, and arcs.
Detail the Three-Act Structure: Most films adhere to the classic three-act structure:
Act I: Introduce the world and the protagonist. Detail the 'inciting incident' that propels the story forward.
Act II: Dive into the meat of the story, including major conflicts and obstacles.
Act III: Reach the climax and resolve the central conflict. Tie up any loose ends.
Show, Don’t Tell: Remember, movies are a visual medium. Describe scenes in a way that conjures up vivid imagery.
Maintain the Book’s Voice: While you're condensing, ensure the treatment retains the unique voice and tone of your book.
End Strongly: Conclude your treatment with the resolution of the story, ensuring it leaves an impact.
Keep It Concise: A treatment should be comprehensive but concise, typically ranging from 5 to 20 pages. Aim to strike a balance.
Four Real Treatments from Movies That Were First Novels:
While the full treatments for many films are proprietary, we can imagine, based on the success of the following adaptations, how their treatments might have been structured:
"The Shining" by Stephen King:
Logline: A recovering alcoholic writer takes a job as an off-season caretaker at a historic hotel, only to face malevolent supernatural forces that endanger his family.
Main Characters: Jack Torrance, Wendy Torrance, Danny Torrance, and the haunted Overlook Hotel.
Act I: Introduction to the Torrance family and the Overlook Hotel. Hint at the hotel's dark past.
Act II: Paranormal activities increase. Danny's psychic abilities (the "shine") reveal the hotel's malevolent intentions. Jack’s sanity unravels.
Act III: Jack's descent into madness. Wendy and Danny's fight for survival. The hotel's chilling past is revealed.
"The Godfather" by Mario Puzo:
Logline: The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control to his reluctant son.
Main Characters: Vito Corleone, Michael Corleone, Sonny Corleone, Tom Hagen.
Act I: Introduction to the Corleone family. Michael's initial reluctance towards the mafia life.
Act II: Assassination attempts, betrayals, and the mafia war. Michael's increasing involvement.
Act III: Michael takes over and consolidates power, embodying the new Godfather.
"Jurassic Park" by Michael Crichton:
Logline: A wealthy entrepreneur secretly creates a theme park featuring living dinosaurs drawn from prehistoric DNA, leading to disastrous consequences.
Main Characters: Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Ellie Sattler, John Hammond, Dr. Ian Malcolm.
Act I: Introduction to the Jurassic Park. The wonder of dinosaurs alive in the modern era.
Act II: A security breach. Dinosaurs escape and wreak havoc.
Act III: Struggle for survival against the unleashed prehistoric predators.
"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins:
Logline: In a dystopian future, a defiant teenager is chosen to participate in a deadly competition where children fight to the death on live television.
Main Characters: Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, Gale Hawthorne, Effie Trinket.
Act I: Introduction to the repressive world of Panem. Katniss volunteers for the Games.
Act II: The deadly games commence. Alliances, betrayals, and intense survival scenarios.
Act III: Katniss and Peeta's rebellion against the Game's rules. The beginning of a larger rebellion against the Capitol.
A treatment is more than a summary—it's a vision of how your book can be transformed into a cinematic masterpiece. Through clear structure, vivid descriptions, and a keen understanding of what makes your story unique, your treatment can be the stepping stone to seeing your book's name in the opening credits.