Last year I said yes to writing a novel based on the screenplay of the new movie Courageous, which is being released in theaters on September 30. The movie was done by the Kendrick brothers, Stephen and Alex, who produced Facing the Giants and Fireproof. As Fireproof centered on fire fighters and marriage, Courageous centers on police officers and fatherhood and, not surprisingly, COURAGE for men in their homes and personal lives.
Some movie screenplays are based on novels, others are written directly for the movie. In those cases, a novelist, such as myself, is called in to do a “novelization” of the screenplay. The fun thing about this project for me was that the excellent spine of the novel Courageous already existed in the screenplay, but the novel is about five times longer, meaning that I had to invent 80% of the story line. This was an imaginative process for me, because I introduced new characters and locations and many scenes that are not in the movie.
Many who watch the movie Courageous will want to learn more about the story than is in its two hours on screen. The novel is the equivalent of ten hours of screen time, and allows much more exploration of the characters, back-story and subplots as well as new dramatic scenes (without having to spend millions of dollars to produce them). When I tell people I wrote a novel based on the movie, they are excited and ask all kinds of questions. They love the idea of seeing the movie, then exploring it in the novel form, in characters and storyline and themes in greater detail at their leisure.
Movie-making and book-writing are not contradictory, but supplementary mediums. Watching Alex and Stephen sit at their computers surrounded by big screens, editing Courageous, showed me that making a good movie is remarkably similar to making a good book, which I’ve been trying to do for twenty-five years. The painstaking editing process helps you to make it into the most compelling story that reaches into the audience’s hearts.
What makes a story unforgettable and haunting is the same thing in movies as it is in books. We crave a story that has the ring of truth, and involves action and conflict and the growth of characters we care about. We want a story that we don’t leave behind when we leave the theatre or read the last page of the book. We want a redemptive story that stays with us and changes us for the better. That’s what I’m convinced the movie Courageous will do. My prayer is that the novel Courageous will do the same.