Turn Your Short Story into a Short Film

Part 1: How to Choose a Short Story to Adapt into a Short Film


Writers are often versatile with the way they use words and the way they tell stories.

Take me, for instance. I’m a ghostwriter, copywriter, essayist, editor, novelist, short story writer, and all around storyteller. I’ve been making my living with words for six years.

Recently, I’ve decided to expand into yet another branch of storytelling—screenwriting and filmmaking. I have a background in theater, so it’s not a huge leap. I’ve chosen to adapt one of my own short stories into my first short film project.

The process is stretching my brain in new ways, and (I like to think) making me an all-around better writer.

In this series of posts, I’m taking you step by step through the process of adapting a short story into a short film. Maybe someday you’d like to do this yourself.

I hope so. We need more good story-based films.


Here’s a link to my short story “Heat.” It’s about 1,800 words.

Give it a quick read, then come back when you’re confused about why I chose to adapt this particular story into a film.


This story was inspired by real events and by Lorrie Moore’s short story, “Lust.” (I can’t find a copy of it online. Sorry!)

“Heat” is not a perfect short story. And at first read, it doesn’t seem cinematic.

It’s not like a feature film or an episode of a TV series, with a cause-and-effect string of events and colorful characters that all work together to lead to a big climax. There aren’t really twists and turns in the plot . . . and there aren’t even a lot of plot elements TO twist and turn.

“Heat” is not about telling an epic tale. It’s not even imparting a moral.

I didn’t write this story with the intention of adapting it into a film. I wrote it years before I ever decided to make films, simply because it was in my head.

So now that I’m making films, what made me choose this story as my first adaptation?


The story presents a single conflict and the way a character struggles to deal with that conflict. It attempts to communicate the main character’s mental and emotional arc in the face of a single situation.

It’s not a string of events that make a story, so much as a single idea explored over 1,800 words.

We see the same thing in William Carlos Williams’s short story, “The Use of Force,” which is about discipline and defiance.

The same kind of thing is going on in Jane Campion’s short film “Peel.” It’s also about discipline and defiance.

If you have about twenty minutes, take some time to compare “The Use of Force” and “Peel.” (“The Use of Force” is a quick read at 1,500 words.)

One reason I chose to develop “Heat” as my first short film is because it’s rich with this situational conflict, but doesn’t take a lot of time or plot twists to explore that.

It accomplishes this (or tries to) with mood.


Just like with writing, there are no rules in filmmaking.

That said . . . just like with writing, there are some very good guidelines that it helps to use until you’re good enough to not have to use them.

As far as I know, there is no guideline for what makes a good short film. But my favorites are the ones that explore a single theme in this way, so that’s what I chose to develop.


To follow the series “Turn Your Short Story into a Short Film,” visit www.Mythraeum.com and subscribe to the category “Films and Videos.”


L. Marrick is an author, ghostwriter and entrepreneur who travels and works from her laptop. She writes about archetypes, spirituality, and mythology at Mythraeum.com. Follow her on Twitter @LMarrick, and on Facebook.

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