The True Story Behind Jamie Nash’s Novel, Nomad
Save the Cat! had just dropped days before or maybe days after, I can’t exactly remember.
I was already in the know.
In fact, I may have been the first Cat.
You see, Blake asked me to co-write a screenplay with him back around 2003-2004.
He’d just found out that his Herbie goes Nascar script was being rewritten and greenlit for Lindsay Lohan.
He had a newer idea in mind. It was called “Repossessed” and the pitch was “Fast and the Furious meets Herbie.” He had the high-level story in his head – a “racing gangster” gets shot in his tricked-out car. He possesses it. The goofy lawyer (we were thinking Ben Stiller) of the guy on trial buys the car from a police auction… and partners up with the Christine-esque hot rod to bring down the gang!
He let me do the grunt work (he was busy writing Save the Cat!). On our story phone calls, he was throwing around terms like “Fun & Games” and “Bad Guys Close In” and “Dark Night of the Soul.” My newbie screenwriter mind just thought these were industry terms everyone knew. They seemed intuitive enough. Handles for things I was already mulling.
It especially got weird when he started talking 10-20-10’s. Is this a thing? Do I need to talk 10-20-10’s on my next water bottle tour?
We never quite finished the final final draft of “Repossessed.”
I did a couple of drafts and came up with an amazing action sequence that involved a car carrier that was the bomb! But Blake was busy. He was writing a book. And I quickly realized we weren’t just co-writing… the script and I were sort of Guinea Pigs in the Save the Cat! lab.
This book showed up and encapsulated all our story conversations in a quick and easy cheat-sheet.
I immediately applied it to my next few screenplays – I’d had success in the indy horror market and wanted to stretch my brand to the movies I loved, i.e., sci-fi stuff.
Enter my screenplay Nomad.
Back in those days, as I was just starting to get noticed by managers and agents and producers, my key strategy for spec-scripting was best described as “GRAB ‘EM BY THE THROAT ON PAGE 1 AND DON’T LET GO!”
Nomad starts with a girl waking up in a crypod on a spaceship and the chamber is on fire. She doesn’t know how she got there or why. Things are exploding. People are trapped. She risks her life to save a couple. When things settle, weird “Lost-style” mysteries stack up – the ship runs on Commodore 64’s and Radio-Shack technology, the few survivors are like her and have no memory, and even worse someone or something is trying to kill them.
It’s similar to sci-fi horror/thrillers like Alien or Event Horizon or even The Thing. But it’s less a Monster in the House, more a Dude With a Problem… with monsters!
It was a lean-mean 100 pages of mystery/action/etc. It got optioned. It almost got made.
Then it got pitched as a graphic novel.
Then as a TV series.
When I started writing novels a few years ago, I considered adapting several screenplays. I chose Nomad because of its “start on page 1” storyline and its adherence to “the beats.”
Knowing I had a good structure under my feet, it allowed me to focus on the new muscles required of novel writing: novelistic-style, POV concerns, sensory descriptions, character internals, etc.
Nomad‘s amnesia story felt like a great opportunity to align the reader to the character without doling out chunks of exposition. The reader and the main character are lock-step in their discoveries as they go.
Additionally, I found the novel format allowed for some more organic storytelling. Whenever you start your story off with a “shot out of a cannon” page 1… there’s always a price to pay. You need to take a breath and get into characters’ heads. Sometimes this can be detrimental to pacing. Other times you can skimp on the needed character development and leave your audience cold.
In the novel, I was able to internally set up “the things that need fixing” while maintaining the runaway train plot through careful use of the protag’s internal monologue.
Additionally, as I began to write the novel, I didn’t reread the screenplay. I re-outlined it from memory using Save the Cat! principles that I’d been internalizing (and teaching!) for the last decade plus. I’d also just read Jessica Brody’s Save the Cat! Writes a Novel.
Pretty much, the structure stayed the same. I had to make some adjustments to the story since the novel adhered to a first-person POV. I also strengthened the theme and characters since I had the benefit of “internal thoughts” to bring these out. The internal journey is much clearer. The “transformation machine” became my focus in the translation.
Because of my screenplay style/brevity, it’s a crazy-fast beach read, 206 pages without chapter breaks, giving it a real-time feel. I hope you’ll check it out. It’s on Amazon and Amazon Kindle. Or you can read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited.
If you’re interested in comparing it to the original screenplay, I’m making the screenplay available for free to those who sign up for my newsletter.
I hope you’ll check it out. And if you’re a producer of Family Films… “Repossessed 2020”! Fast and the Furious with a possessed car. The lost Blake Snyder screenplay. Call me!