The Adaptation of Volcano by David McGregor

The adaptation of the novel Volcano, written by Karina Evans, was a difficult piece of work to re-visualise into a screenplay. The book is a brilliantly dark read, with a fantastic female-lead cast who are very different in their moral structure and outlook on life.

As a male, it can be challenging to write from a female perspective. I did not want the female characters to fall into the stereotypes that many film makers currently push them into. There are three leading female characters in the novel — protagonist Eloise, her mother Sandra, and her best friend Emma. For this reflection, I will concentrate on Emma.

Unwilling to allow Emma to be yet another generic “femme fatale”, I created a strong character with her own unique traits. With this in mind, I wrote a complete biography for Emma, which shaped her well and allowed for a fully formed character. Through writing Emma’s biography, she became a jealous child who grew into a driven, thrill-seeking, self-centred woman. These traits pulled her into dangerous territory.

My next step was to listen. I listened to as many female conversations as I could. I believe the way people interact is a window into the person they are and the life they lead. Over the period of a week, I simply listened (not to be confused with eavesdropping, mind you) to women talk in casual conversations. Primarily, I was attentive to how they interacted with each other. I did this with friends, family, my wife … for that week, I was the best husband on the planet!

With the knowledge gained from this, I created arbitrary conversations and interactions between characters. Subjects varied until characters began to form their own agendas within the dialogue. The characters started to think for themselves, and this is the moment I knew they were ready — ready to be thrown into the various conflicts the novel had constructed so well. This was a powerful learning process for me. It may (or may not) be the way others write for the opposite gender, but it is certainly a method that has worked for me.

The novel revolves around issues of domestic violence, addiction and self-harm. The issue of addiction is well-documented within film whereas domestic violence and self-harm are, in my experience, almost taboo subjects.

I feel that domestic violence, in particular, needs greater media coverage. I researched the issue in depth, to help me understand the themes of the novel. I have taken all major conflicts within the novel and utilised them in the screenplay. My biggest challenge was visual technique. The violence is a necessary part of the film but it shouldn’t be overused, as this will dilute the horror of abuse. I avoided the dilution problem by including selected scenes involving the daughter. The brutality of the violence is shown through the horror on the daughter’s face, and so the audience is focused on this. We are made aware of the violence to the victim, and also the effect on other members of the family unit. Humour is used to bring the viewer down from the shock of violence, the binary opposite to the brutal confrontations. This brings a balance to the screenplay, something required to stop the viewer from becoming impartial to the violence.

The novel and the film will create an interesting talking point on the devastating issue of domestic violence — something that is still in great need of our attention.  


You can follow David on Twitter @theverylastact

We recommend learning more about Volcano on our Spotlight Page. You can also read from the author of Volcano the novel, Karina Evans on our blog and buy your copy of Volcano on Amazon now!.