What kind of novel is Blind Tasting? It’s a contemporary story set in Silicon Valley, Sonoma and Napa. It’s a quest, really, and an interpersonal drama set within the context of a high-tech wine caper. Both real and imaginary establishments are included, both real and imaginary wines are described.
At times satirical, at times more poignant, Blind Tasting is a story celebrating curiosity and the passion for problem solving, but it’s also a tale of love and friendship and how an ensemble of friends — Cory, Dawn and Rob — embrace life despite the risks and uncertainty of outcomes.
Blind Tasting was originally written as a screenplay. The decision to morph it into a novel was driven by two things: 1) a gradual realization that a screenplay is a blueprint only and that much of the specific content and world that a movie presents has little connection with the contents of a screenplay, and 2) a deepening desire to shape and present the characters and settings in a specific context with specific nuances of dialog, action and character portrayed in specific ways.
I worked long and hard on that screenplay and felt pretty proud of it; I’d managed to keep it within 140 pages recommended by all the guides I’d read. I’d polished and rewritten, agonizing over what to take out, what to add that was still missing. It was quite an engrossing, enthralling and exhausting exercise. When I finally realized that I could present my concept for this story more convincingly as a novel, I really felt like Sisyphus and his rock. But, I consoled myself that the screenplay was a detailed outline for the novel; the major plot points and conflicts were already there, the personalities of the characters already shaped. I’d even read that a screenplay is a useful outline for a novel. I envisioned taking six to eight weeks to rewrite the scenes into chapters. Then there’s what really happened.
Converting Screenplay to Novel
The blueprint nature of a screenplay really hit home as I began the rewrite of my scenes into chapters. The simple, brief prose I’d edited and re-edited for the action directives in the screenplay were flat and soulless in the context of a novel’s narrative description. All the characters’ psychology, motive and conflict needed to be present in the words of the novel — nothing would be interpreted by a live actor. There was already a lot of dialog in the story, and much of it remained in the novel, but much of it got reworked. I kept the ensemble nature of the original screenplay and this implied an intentional use of multiple points of view. In the novel, descriptive passages serve as the camera perspectives, and it was tricky and daunting to decide at what instance in an interaction the POV should shift. Shifting must not confuse the reader or jar them from the fictional narrative; it should add to the interest and build tempo. The structure of the novel quickly assumed its own inherent shape that bore less and less resemblance to the screenplay. The eight weeks I had imagined for the rewrite of Blind Tasting into a novel actually took more than fourteen months, including four major revisions of the novel itself. I still think the story would make a good film, but I have no regrets over rewriting it as a novel. For me, the idioms of screenplay and novel are separate languages; you can’t make a literal translation from one to the other that’s any good, you need to respond to the requirements and constraints of each form to find a workable ‘rephrasing’. I wouldn’t have gained this insight without having gone through the writing and rewriting processes of both forms.