Book to Screen Adaptations

by limebirdlizzie

Whether it’s for the television or the big screen book adaptations are everywhere. But are they any good? I suppose this question hangs on another, whether you have read the books or not. For example I absolutely love all three Lord of the Ring’s films and have even sat through all 12 hours and ten minutes of the extended edition films back to back. However I confess to never having read the books.

I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter books and was always disappointed with the films. My daughter now loves them though. However I can see that when you have so much detail and subplots within a story then it can be hard to fit absolutely everything in and also it can he incredibly difficult with a franchise such as Harry Potter with millions of fans to satisfy everyone. I have accepted them as true to the essence of the books and even though I believe they could have been done better I hold my peace with them.

Then there are things like True Blood. Based (extremely loosely) on the books by Charlene Harris.  I started reading her books a number of years back. I very quickly became obsessed  and was over the moon when I heard that they were adapting her books (so far 13 of them in the Sookie Stackhouse series) into a television series.

I was counting down the days till I saw it … then I saw it. I sat and watched the first series to the end trying very hard not to hate it and give it the benefit of the doubt. However when they kept a character alive who was meant to die because he was a hit with the television audience I was furious and refused to watch it anymore. Since the first series I have caught snippets and seen new characters added, entirely new subplots created out of thin air and even though I can see the original plot hidden behind everything else I can’t help but wonder what they’re doing.

The books themselves were brilliant, its a huge disappointment that they changed so much, turning it into something completely different compared to the books.

Another example of this is The Vampire Diaries. I admit I watched the television series first and loved it. However when I attempted to read the book it was difficult to do. Aside from finding it (in my opinion) poorly written there were a lot of changes and not just in the characters, who somewhere in the adaptation process had suddenly changed hair colour and skin tone.

If I am ever lucky enough to be published and then approached for the rights to make my book into a film or television series then I hope that I will be able to lay down the law and tell them that it needs to be as accurate and true to the original story as possible. If for no other reason than to keep readers happy.


10 Comments to “Book to Screen Adaptations”

  1. The only problem with an author putting their foot down is that readers aren’t the biggest audience they have to think about. Would you rather get a fraction of royalties in that case?

    However you make good points, and it is nice when a screen version holds as true as possible. In some cases I wonder if they think they are, only to be booed by the readers anyway, such as Harry Potter.

  2. The problem is that there are so many subtle nuances in the book that can’t possibly make it to the screen. That, and so much of reading is, literally, in the mind of the reader. We hold our own images of what characters and places should look like. Images that may be slightly different than what anyone else, including producers, have created.

    I’m a huge LOTR fan. I’ve read the trilogy so often, my paperback versions are dogearred beyond belief. And I probably have three different sets of the trilogy. I cringed when I heard there would be another attempt at making it into a movie (they tried twice before that – animated – not good). I approached the first with trepedation. But I absolutely love them. I watch them (the extended versions) at least once a year. Yes, there were a few liberties taken, and a few characters messed with, but all in all the vision was true to books.

    I think the difference lies in whether the producer is looking to just take the plot, strip it clean, make it psuedo recognizeable to draw in the book lovers, and make some money. OR if the producer is looking to be honest to the characters and the story and actually bring it to life for the book lovers.

    I’m still waiting in nervous anticipation at the outcome of Dragonriders of Pern.

  3. It’s a judgment call about what to leave in and what to take out. Since the producers are looking to get as many viewers as possible, they adapt a book according to what they think will sell tickets and pay cast/crew salaries. But at the same time, they risk losing viewers if the movie’s adaptation is markedly different from the original book. If they stay faithful to the book (within reason), I’m happy.

  4. It is hard because with the books, we each have our personal “take” on the story and plot/character elements that resonate with us. And if that doesn’t come across in the movie/television version, we tend not to like it. Some of my favorite LOTR characters didn’t make the cut for the move, and I had to force myself to not let that interfere with the movies’ telling of the story.

    I hate to break it to you, but if someone does buy the film rights, you will basically have NO say in what they do to the story. 😉 If you’re going the traditional agent approach, he will want to hold the film rights (not the press or you), and he’d balk at taking you on if you put restrictive clauses on the terms of the film rights. If you go the indie route, I doubt anyone would agree to your terms. Harsh, but that’s the market place.

    So you’ll probably have to ask yourself if you’re willing to go no film adaptation at all to ensure faithful telling. 🙂

  5. I read a series called “The Borrowers” when I was in grade school. The illustrations are the way that I remember those stories and that is the way I want to remember them. Loved the books.

    They were later made into a movie and I think were recently made into an animated film. I watched about ten seconds of the movie before turning it off. It was an abomination – liberties taken right from the start. I’ve seen ads for the animated thing, which I won’t attempt to watch. I change the channel when they come on.

    I’ve felt this way about a number of books and subsequent movie adaptations. Sometimes they can co-exist peacefully in the brain, sometimes not.

    I do hope and wish for you that you have some say in the process! Good post.

  6. I’m kind of a snot. I wrote them, therefore I’m the only one who knows exactly what’s right. Most adaptations are not happy ones, with the notable exception of LOTR, which I actually think are better than Tolkein’s originals, (yeah, yeah, do not lynch me, I call it as I see it) most of them either lack, or are so completely off base that my brain hurts to consider them.

  7. I heard an interview on the radio recently with an author who had had a couple of her books made into films (can’t remember her name right now!) and she was asked how she felt about the films not being completely true to the book. She said that the only way you can cope is that when the rights to the book have been sold, you just have to absolutely and completely let it go because it will never be exactly how you envisaged; you just have to remember that whatever they do in the film doesn’t change the book. For me, if I watch a screen adaptation of something I have read, it’s not so much about the detail, it’s about the feel; does it make me feel the same way the book did? Do the characters give out the same personalilty that I picked up from them in the book? A couple of examples – The Da Vinci Code, whilst I certainly wouldn’t say it was a brilliant film, it did look and feel like I imagined when I read the book. Also, The Time Traveller’s Wife did the same thing for me even though a lot of detail was changed – in fact I was half way through reading The Time Traveller’s Wife when I watched the film, and then carried on with the rest of the book, and I didn’t feel a huge shift between the two.

  8. A few years ago, Philliipa Boyens – co-author of the Lord of the Rings script – explained to me that they’d had to adjust the story to make the structure fit what is required for movies. I’d be inclined to agree with the way they did it, though I rather missed the Tom Bombadil sequence. The reality is, I think, that the necessary structure, pace and content of a book won’t translate directly into the different medium of screen. A few books do – like The Da Vinci Code – but I think it’s because they were structured as movies in the first place. And it was a rather oddly structured book.

    Matthew Wright

  9. I just think that film and book are completely different genres and while a book can get me interested in seeing a film and vice-versa I tend to have an open mind about what to expect when I watch it. It would be impossible to keep everything from a book in a film adaptation so they need to make choices. One of the reasons why True Blood is different from the books is it doesn’t stick to Sookie’s Point of View so they fill in a lot of back-detail on characters such as Tara. True they also add new plot-lines etc. but at least it keeps me guessing to an extent about what’s going to happen rather than just seeing the book lifted directly onto the screen. I quite like that!

    It’s very rare that a film is better than a book (Stardust is one exception for me) and I usually go from book to film rather than the other way round because I want the fuller picture first. I thought the Harry Potters were incredibly true to the books because there would have been such backlash if they changed anything fundamental. Goblet of Fire was the first book that got me into the Potters and no, the film doesn’t give us everything from the book, but they do a pretty good job of giving us a complete story in just 2 hours or however long it is.

    Vampire diaries is a funny one – the books are all over the place and nothing like the programme, but I’m guessing they saw the potential with the love triangle sexy vampire set-up and took it off the way they wanted to. I think it works a lot better than the books and the books probably wouldn’t even be well-known without the programme.

    Interestingly I loved Time Travellers Wife when I read it, but the film made me lose interest in it, which is a real shame. Same goes for Lovely Bones to an extent (although I thought the book was just so-so) – that film lost anything that gave the book its magic. So perhaps you’re right that sometimes they should just leave a bestseller alone rather than riding on its success to produce a bland film!

  10. The biggest thing with book to film adaptations is that they are different mediums, and things that work well in the written word, don’t always work well in a word for word translation to film. And the opposite is true, sometimes you can show things on film that don’t quite work well when it’s then turned into a book on page. I know it’s hard as the audience to turn your mind off of what was in the book and just enjoy the film or show for what it is.
    Also, most major authors already have their book rights sold before the book is even written. I can’t think of who , but people like John Grisham for example, anytime he writes a book before it’s even published the movie rights are already sold.
    I love the Harry Potter movies and books both. I’ll admit that I watched the first movie before I read any of the books so maybe that taints me. But I think overall they did a great job with the films. The books are rather large so some subplots and some characters have to be omitted… or combined, just to keep the story going. Otherwise, we’d spend 8 hours in the theater. I’m insane enough that I’d probably sit thru an 8 hour Harry Potter film, but I don’t think most people would like that.
    I like it when I go see a movie and see that the author was also a part of the script. Like the Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins was a screenwriter as well and so she took part in the writing of the film. So if anyone has any issues with the movie…well the author of the book was a part of the process so I take that as having to accept if for all that it is, because the author basically approved of all that was in the film.

Limebird Writers Love To Peck At Comments! :)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: