Fiction to Features / November 2023
A coincidentally speculative issue? Featuring doppelgangers, a cello audition, and skincare products
Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving last week! I spent it consuming too much food and seeing THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES (as is my God-given duty as someone who runs a newsletter where I talk about adapting fiction into feature films).
If you’re new here, hi! I’m Meghan and I love reading. This newsletter combines my love of fiction with my love of movies. Welcome, and welcome back to my returning readers!
Below are the 10 pieces of short fiction I read this month that have strong feature potential. Unintentionally, many of these stories are speculative in nature, which maybe…I just need to accept that’s my taste at this point? As usual, the rights are available to all of these. Please reach out at email@example.com if you’d like to inquire further about anything I discuss below, and I’d be happy to put you in contact with the representatives for each story.
THIS MONTH’S READS:
“Once Upon a Time at The Oakmont” by P.A. Cornell, found in Fantasy Magazine
Logline: A mysterious building called The Oakmont hosts residents from different time periods in American history; our story focuses on Sarah, a woman from the late-twentieth century, as she falls in love with Roger, a man from the 1940s.
Why it would work as a feature: Oh how beautiful this story was! The various rules of The Oakmont were charming and added depth to the world (i.e. a resident from the future cannot share details of their current day with residents from the past, or a resident from our time cannot use a cell phone in the presence of a pre-1970s resident). Grounded in reality but still having a whimsical and speculative sensibility, this could make for a wonderful feature. It is a classic story of two star-crossed lovers, with its setting adding true individuality and a unique twist on this trope — think THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE if it were less tragic. And the reveal of who Sarah’s son is! So beautiful and heartwarming, although slightly sad. The character development and world in this one could be fun to play with story-wise and especially visually with the costume and production design as we peer into the apartment of each resident.
“Accidental Girls” by Chloe N Clark, found on Electric Literature
Logline: After going to a bar, a young woman encounters her childhood best friend who vanished when they were sixteen. But when she confronts her, the woman claims to be a different person entirely.
Why it would work as a feature: This story was simply amazing. The female friendship and grief felt from Halley’s disappearance was palpable and made me emotional. There is so much we could explore here: are there other Halleys? Are there other Fayes (Halley’s doppelganger)? Do we have more clones of our narrator too? I also enjoyed seeing Faye’s job with trauma and how she absorbed people’s traumatic memories into the metal plate behind her head. Could this somehow be related to Halley’s disappearance? The amount of questions I’m pondering after reading this proves just how much could be done here should this be adapted. Am I biased since I made the lovely clones from ORPHAN BLACK my entire personality when I was fifteen? Perhaps…but this story is emotional, strong, grounded sci-fi. A beautiful writer and exactly my taste — read this!
“Salt Water” by Eugenia Triantafyllou, found on Tor
Logline: Set in a world where people grow fish in transparent membranes in their stomachs as part of their puberty, most tweens’ fish will turn into mermaids. When 12-year-old Anissa’s fish appears to be turning into something else altogether, she goes on a journey to uncover what that could mean for her life.
Why it would work as a feature: This story is quite sweet and could be altered so that it feels more epic in scope, aligned with that of a Disney or Pixar film. I enjoyed seeing the interactions between Anissa and Ekaterina, a woman whose fish in her stomach grew into an octopus instead of a mermaid. The imagery in this is strong and feels whimsical enough to be an animated feature — I would especially adore seeing the various manifestations of Anissa and her peers’ fish, and how animators could explore these fishes’ appearances to express character traits. Perhaps the story could be altered slightly to see Anissa and Ekaterina go on a physical journey together to uncover exactly what Anissa’s fish will turn into, or if Anissa can try to have her fish turn into something else. This world is rich with potential and vibrancy. Ekaterina’s backstory with the little fish in her yard, Mike, added a depth to this that I did not expect. “Salt Water” is a new take on a coming-of-age story and what it means to be different, while also finding self-acceptance. Similar in tone and subject matter to LUCA.
“Girlfriend Material” by M.H. Ayinde, found in Fantasy Magazine
Logline: In an effort to look beautiful before attending a big party, a teenage girl buys “girlfriend feed” and grows a beautiful girlfriend in her bedroom to consume her body parts, and in turn, and her beauty.
Why it would work as a feature: A piece of flash fiction that really packs a punch. A transformation monster-type story that allows us to dive into the motivation of Sam, our protagonist. Why does Sam feel the need to look beautiful at this party? Will her crush be there and she needs to look like the ideal woman? Or, does she need to fit in with the popular girls? A feature would allow us to explore why Sam wants to do this in the first place and to see her character development along the way as she loses pieces of herself to become this figure of beauty. The body horror also feels unique. Some potential for animation, or exciting practical effects. JENNIFER’S BODY if it were less snarky.
“Ghost Mountain Island Murder Mystery” by Colin Winnette, found in The American Reader
Logline: A married couple wins tickets to a supposedly haunted island where they will discover a new clue each week. If they can solve the mystery within 30 days they can stay on the island as long as they’d like; otherwise, their boat will take them back home.
Why it would work as a feature: This story is very contained, but has some fabulous and quickly paced dialogue — very similar to the films of Yorgos Lanthimos like THE LOBSTER, especially considering the way this deals with romantic relationships. The dialogue developed the dynamic between our husband and wife exceptionally well, which made this feel so cinematic. This dissolution and somewhat reconciliation of their marriage amidst the husband’s worsening leg infection were interesting to see. The mystery forces our couple to come together and plays with the struggles that their marriage of many years is facing. Although contained in its scope right now, there could be more conflict as a feature with other couples who may be competing against them on the island, or if we experience more hauntings. I really admire the foundation of this story and different writers could have unique takes on it. Powerful ending as well.
“Headhunting” by Rich Larson, found on Tor
Logline: A private detective investigates the disappearance of a mummified monk’s head from a church, all while battling his own mysterious hallucinations.
Why it would work as a feature: This story has some spooky elements in its mystery, but I very much admired its sense of irreverence and its dialogue. Amir comes alive as our protagonist, and this would make for a mystery that has good elements of comedy — think a tone similar to THE CORNETTO TRILOGY. This could be expanded into a feature with how Amir comes to find Lester, the one who stole the monk’s head in the first place. Or, if we want to bulk up a B story, we could explore Amir’s previous relationship with Bravetti, his ex and the one who handed him this case. Also one of this author’s short stories was adapted into an Emmy-winning episode of LOVE DEATH + ROBOTS…so that’s very exciting.
“Audition” by Denne Michele Norris, found in American Short Fiction
Logline: Amidst their fractured relationship, a conservative reverend escorts his teenage son to New York City to audition for Julliard.
Why it would work as a feature: Deeply poetic and moving, this story felt like WHIPLASH meets MOONLIGHT. The themes in this! I especially admired seeing The Reverend’s (our father character) character development throughout the piece. The glimpses into his emotional reactions to his son’s behavior were moving and let us see the toll that their estrangement was taking on him. I also admired the subtlety we saw in Davis and why he feels distant from his father. And that ending…WHOA. I think the story could be expanded upon in a feature should we see the actual audition, and make this about a trip the two take to New York that might force them closer until The Reverend’s ambiguous final moments on the train tracks.
“Jellyfish” by Jessica Ziebland, found in Litro Magazine
Logline: A woman and a young girl flee to Spain to hide from a dark man in their past and from the media frenzy that surrounds their disappearance.
Why it would work as a feature: This story is a bit short, but I enjoyed the mystery behind why our protagonist flees with Cally, the young girl. We have an active main character whose arc is gripping and lends itself to feature storytelling. The use of flashbacks was also interesting, as it provided a developed backstory without giving too much away. This film would be small, almost similar to THE LOST DAUGHTER in tone and scope (and of course with each having a gorgeous setting too). I loved the heightened conflict with the fact that our characters are appearing in European newspapers as missing persons; there is an underlying suspense here that would work well in a screenplay.
“The Letters They Left Behind” by Scott Edelman, found in Lightspeed Magazine
Logline: After leaving Earth with a group of aliens in an effort to save it from an untimely demise, a mother narrates her love for the daughter she left behind through heartfelt letters.
Why it would work as a feature: The mother/daughter relationship in this story was beautiful. I especially loved the way in which the letters split up the chronology of the story — I could see the imagery of these done well cinematically and they made me quite emotional. There is also much we can explore here on a deeper level in a feature — perhaps diving into what it’s like when these aliens visit Earth, or how the mother is chosen to be someone who goes on travels with them. ARRIVAL in the way that this is also a grounded sci-fi story about a mother’s love. Wonderful, heartbreaking, and a surprisingly happy ending given the circumstances.
“The Accidental Alchemist” by Magdalena Waz, found in PANK Magazine
Logline: After perfecting a highly curated skincare regimen, a young woman finds the key to eternal youth and begins to age backwards.
Why it would work as a feature: This story is quite short, but I loved the themes in it. Felt like a take on THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON that commented on women’s beauty standards and the pressures of feminine youth in society. It would be intriguing to see what kind of life this woman leads for 300+ years, or how she makes the discovery that she is not aging in the first place. I also would love to see how we play with our protagonist’s motivation to look younger — is this coming from her family’s comments towards her, or perhaps she has judgmental friends? This premise is solid and could allow us to go on a lifelong journey. Unconventional, strong, and well-written.
Thanks for reading November’s issue of Fiction to Features! This month was a fun one and I’ve been very excited to share these amazing stories with you all the past few weeks.
December will be a shorter issue with only 5 stories highlighted, and it will be released on Thursday, December 14th, before the entertainment industry shuts down until the new year. That way people have something fun to read during their holiday downtime (or maybe I’m being nerdy and optimistic).
See you all again in two short weeks!