More than a place--it's a writer's muse.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Beyond The Book--Adaptations

Recently, Divas Shannon Delany and Robin Wright fell into a deep discussion about authors points of view and the technicalities of screen adaptations of novels. They decided to do a little series about the subject. Read on for the next two Thursdays and Tuesdays!

I have a soft spot in my heart for books that are translated onto film. You can blame it on SWEET VALLEY HIGH. Yeah, you read me right. Francine Pascal's super awesome(!) book series that came to life on my small, 13” black and white screen forever colored my view of screen translations. I never, not once, thought “What does this author think” when I watched each episode. The author must totally be stoked (I feel I must apologize here for the early 90's slang that will most likely be sprinkled throughout this blog post. Dude, I just can't help it)!

Well, surprise, surprise. That is so not the case.

Stephen King, for one, has yet to find a way that makes him completely pleased with the outcome (about 70 of his works have been made). So, he gave up. In an interview with TIME magazine, he says

“I don't try to maintain quality control. Except I try to get good people involved. The thing is, when you put together a script, a director, and all the other variables, you never really know what's going to come out. And so you start with the idea that it's like a baseball game — you put the best team you can on the field, and you know that, more times than not, you're gonna win.”

Is that what most authors feel like? I have a feeling that we are going to find out.

I don't know exactly when the boom in making novels fit for life on the screen happened. Perhaps it was with the supersonic success of HARRY POTTER, or the Stephenie Meyer's dream come true (that almost didn't happen) of TWILIGHT.

Way back when, when I had no kids and worked as a Youth Coordinator at the local library, I was given an ARC (advanced reader's copy) of TWILIGHT. Little did I know my life would forever be changed. OK, so that wasn't the case, life stayed on course for me, but the phenomenon of what TWILIGHT would become was not lost on me. I was excited to read on her web page that MTV had picked up the rights to make it into a movie! This was in 2005.

I'd say about a year later, I read on her web page that MTV lapsed the right to have a movie made of her first novel, and she was bummed. Some smaller studios were interested, she had said. (Click here for her blog archives detailing what happened and who her original choices for the characters had been.)

The rest, as they say, is history.

Shannon Delany and I recently had a very interesting discussion about movie studios interest in soon-to-be published works and the variety of ways they can come to life. There is the:

Television Series (True Blood)
Made for T.V. Movie (Lifetime Movie Network has a deal with Nora Roberts)
Television Mini-series (Alex Haley's Roots)
Big Screen (Um, yeah. Pick one.)

Which do you prefer? For me, a book is too complex to be made into a big screen movie. Even GONE WITH THE WIND, as amazing an epic as it is, cannot compare to the sweeping drama in the novel. I would love to see it as a TV Mini-series. I feel it is only in that form a book can truly unravel the way an author intended.

Take TRUE BLOOD, for instance. That show is amazing to me. It's like a bunch of fanfic writers gained control and decided to create a season of shows from every book. In fact, that is exactly what happened. The author, Charlaine Harris, gave them permission to do what they will to her novels. Why? Because she'd like to be surprised, too.



Chances are, when you finally get your book deal, there will be some movie studios and production companies sniffing about, as well. What are your choices? What rights should you expect to keep control over? For the technical stuff, Shannon will fill us in. Meanwhile, I'm going to dig out my copy of Richie Tankersley Cusick's BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. (Published in 1992 to go be released at the same time as the movie. 5 years later, it became the T.V. series. Talk about the best of all worlds!)

6 comments:

SarannaDeWylde said...

There are some things that tranfer wonderfully to the screen and some that don't.

I always wonder what the author thinks because I am an author.

But some of my favorite translations are The Vampire Diaries, True Blood, The Ninth Gate, and The Hole.

If you haven't seen The Hole, Robin, it will appeal to your darker tastes.

The Vampire Diaries is a guilty pleasure. I loved those books more than food in Jr. High. That was one of those where I didn't eat and saved my lunch money to buy in secret because my mom wouldn't let me have them.

Jennifer L Hart said...

I know as a reader, I have pictures in my head, pictures that no film adaptation could live up to and most don't come close. IMHO, the best ones are the shows/ films that don't try to match the book exactly, but meander down their own path. That's part of the brilliance behind True Blood. Those of us who read the books don't always know what's coming next!

Shannon Delany said...

Robin--great job! I'll save most of my thoughts for my post Tuesday, but I understand Saranna and Jennifer. We should wonder about what the authors think/thought because it might be very cool to be in their shoes--and yet, maybe it wouldn't...

I think because we tend to see the things we're writing about before and as we write it we can be very picky about how books translate on screen.

I remember THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL--fabulous book! But--Oh. My. God. What they did to the movie! They totally pulled a BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE. The titles were the same, some of the character names and minor things like that, but otherwise it was obvious no one really bothered to read the book (yes, this is a pet peeve of mine).

I think Harris handled her deal very well by letting them run with it and surprise her. Don't know if I'd be so brave, but it's working for her.

SarannaDeWylde said...

Ugh. I did was so disappointed in Blood and Chocolate. I was hoping for so much more. I wanted to like it. I tried to talk myself into liking it.

Gail Hart said...

My favorite adaptaion ever was the made for TV version of Rumer Godden's "In This House of Brede." I saw the movie before I read the book and thought the movie was much better - so much more tightly written. However, a lot of the commenters at IMDb missed the extra detail I thought was better left out.

Gail Hart said...

BTW, Katherine Heigl TOTALLY isn't my idea of Stephanie Plum, but we'll see if she pulls it off.

 
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