SFR Brigade Showcase, December 2015

SFR Brigade showcase

Once a month the Science Fiction Romance Brigade authors showcase snippets from new releases, works in progress, cover reveals or other fun things. Check out all of this month’s participants.

African QueenThe African Queen in Outer Space?

My upcoming SFRom release, Escapee, is coming out in early 2016 from MuseItUp Publishing out of Montreal. The book is unabashedly based on the 1951 movie, The African Queen.

My version is set on an inhospitable moon, rather than the African Jungle, but in both tales the hero and heroine battle nature and, ultimately, the invading enemy.

How did I transform a movie into a science fiction romance? So glad you asked.

Analyzing the movie

I rented the movie and looked for two things:

  • Stages — Charley and Rosie’s relationship go through a number of stages.
  • Turning points — The events that caused their relationship to change from one stage to another.

I then devised analogous — but subtly different — stages and turning points for Escapee. Here are a few of them, so you get the feel for how the analysis worked.

Stage 1:  Polite disconnect between hero and heroine.

  • AQ — Rosie, a missionary in German East Africa, disapproves of Charley, a crude freighter captain who brings supplies, but treats him with chilly politeness.
  • Escapee — Hector, a stuffy career army officer, disapproves of the freewheeling, lower-class airship pilot, Cattaroon who supplies his base.

Turning point:  The enemy invades.

In AQ, it’s the Germans, who leave Rosie alone and stranded — until Charley comes by and saves her.

In Escapee, it’s humans from the Proxima system. While Hector’s on leave, they destroy his entire command, leaving him stranded and alone — until Catt lands, looking for survivors.

Stage 2:  Rosie devises a near-impossible goal that he doesn’t agree with.

  • AQ — Rosie’s wants to attack a German warship. Charley agrees, knowing she’ll give up when she learns how dangerous the river is.
  • Escapee — Hector wants to attack enemy headquarters. Catt agrees only because she’s certain he’ll give up when he realizes how dangerous a flight across the moon is.

So far the two stories are very similar. Now they start to diverge, though the skeleton remains the same.

Turning point:  When mild danger fails to deter her from her purpose, his true feelings come out explosively.

In AQ, after shooting rapids doesn’t deter Rosie, Charley gets drunk and insults Rosie. She dumps out all his rum.

In Escapee, after getting caught in a volcano’s updraft doesn’t deter Hector, Catt sabotages a cannon stored in the airship’s hold.

Stage 3:  Futile attempts to rebuild a civil relationship.

  • AQ — Charley apologizes for insulting her, but she won’t accept his apology unless he agrees to take her to the Germans’ ship.
  • Escapee — With the cannon gone, Hector realizes how futile his quest is. Feeling guilty, Catt tries to be nice, but he’s too depressed to talk about it.

Turning point:  He agrees to share her goal.

In AQ, Charley’s (deeply buried!) chivalry makes him give in.

In Escapee, Catt remembers all the friends whom the enemy has killed. Hearing her cry during the night, Hector finally talks, voicing his idealistic reasons for wanting to fight. Inspired by his idealism, Catt agrees to make the dangerous voyage to the other side of the moon.

Stage 4:  Falling in love

Etc, etc.

“Inspired By”, Not a Ripoff

I won’t bore you with all six stages, but hopefully you get the general idea. Analyzing the movie turned out to be a huge help in developing my plot. You ought to try it some time.

I’d like to emphasize that Escapee ended up having a very different feel than the movie. If I didn’t tell you it was based on the African Queen, you probably wouldn’t notice.

If addition to being science fiction rather than historical drama, here are some of the key differences:

  • Although both environments are hostile, they’re different — river rapids vs. hurricanes and volcanoes.
  • The characters are very different. The genders are reversed, for one thing. Their wounds are very different, as are the lessons they need to learn.
  • I added secondary characters:
    > They capture an enemy who tries to sabotage the airship.
    > Hector has an alien pet that is ugly/lovable.
    > Catt’s android co-pilot provides comic relief as well as the book’s most poignant scene, when he dies.
  • The ending is more believable, IMHO. AQ’s ending requires an act of God (a rainstorm that floats their grounded boat) and a wild coincidence (their sunken boat nonetheless sinks the German ship). Escapee has a logical ending.

What’s It to You?

If you have a favorite movie you love, you might want to turn it into a book of your own. If so, consider analyzing it for stages and turning points.

What movie would you like to turn into an “inspired by” novel? Tell us about it in the comments.

Suggested Reading

Escapee is the second book in my space opera series featuring the Dukelsky family. The first book is The Guardian Angel of Farflung Station.

theguardianangeloffarflungstation--thumbnailSandrina, a lonely, waif-like genius, conceals more secrets—and power—than anyone on Farflung Space Station. One secret is her hopeless crush on Duke Dukelsky, the handsome head of the station’s security.

But when invaders take over Farlung, Duke needs Sandrina’s help to repel them and rescue the reformed space pirate who cut out her tongue when she was eight. Can she earn Duke’s love even though it means stripping herself of all secrets and forgiving the man who maimed her?

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15 comments

  1. Wow. Well done, Ed. 🙂

    1. Thanks very much, Lea.

  2. Diane Burton · · Reply

    African Queen is one of my all-time fav movies. Can’t wait to read Escapee to see how you did it.

    1. Great movie, no? I remember this being one of my dad’s favorite movies. He had great uncles (or some such distant relations) who had lived in the Belgian Congo, and the movie gave him a feel for what it must have been like. My mother loved it for the love story.

  3. Now, I really want to watch African Queen. I never have and clearly I missed a great movie.

    1. Yes, you have Cynthia. Rent it now. Today!

  4. You new story sounds fun! It is interesting to learn how you developed the story.

    1. I’m constantly groping for new and/or better ways to plot a story. Sometimes plots come to me on their own, but more often I have to pay for them with blood and sweat.

  5. Being a pantser, I absolutely could not break a story into stages like that (believe me, I’ve tried plotting and planning. I never stick to then and lose interest long before the end. My mind just doesn’t work like that). But I could see this being a useful process and breakdown for those who do like to plot. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I like to call myself a recovering pantser. You know, like a recovering alcoholic. By inclination, I’m a pantser, but I’ve have too many stories evaporate into the mist. Last year’s abortive NaNoWriMo debacle was the last straw. I’ve outlined extensively for my last three books … but only for the first half or third. From there on I have only a vague sense of direction. I know that I’ll start deviating, and the deviations are probably better than what I’d originally conceived. In a way, I think of my outlines as a first draft that I play free and easy with.

  6. Pantser, here… But I definitely understand the motivation of taking the bones of a story you love and making it your own. Extremely interesting concept I’d never thought about before.

    1. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to turn an analysis of the movie into a novel — and by how different the novel is that the movie.

  7. Interesting analysis. I too am a pantster so I’d never be able to get into all that detail but I enjoyed the discussion of your process.

    1. By nature, I’m a wordsmith rather than a storyteller, so I’ve had to work hard over the years to improve by plots. Thinking about structure like this is one way I’ve done that.

    2. “All that detail?” My analysis of the movie was two pages long!

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