Saturday 11 January 2014

TV and Film Adaptations of Novels- How Far Should They Stray?

Normality has just about returned to my writing schedule and I'm now on the last chapter of Draft 1.

I know a few writers who use well known actors and actresses as templates for what their fictional characters look like.

Sometimes an actor in a TV role will have the 'look' I envisage one of my characters as having.

And I'm sure we've all had moments when we've thought, who would we choose to play our characters if a film or TV adaptation was made of our book...?

But we all know the reality.

If the option has been bought, yes it means money for the author, but no guarantee it will ever reach the screen. And for the majority of those few that do, the writer has to accept that their characters and storyline may not fit exactly what is wanted, so will be changed.

We're realistic enough to understand that a lot of the story in a novel will have to go to slot it into a 90 minute film, or a short series. Perhaps characters have to be amalgamated into one to continue to fulfil their roles; or a character who didn't appear in the book is put in to take on those (combined) original parts.

Over the Christmas holidays Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh could be seen in Gone With The Wind. The film is over 3 hours long and doesn't stray too far from the book, even though the script went through various versions to get it to length.

The 2014 TV season is bringing versions of Daphne Du Maurier's 'Jamaica Inn', 'Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell ' by Susana Clarke, and 'The Musketeers', from Alexander Dumas's 'The Three Musketeers'.

How far they stray from the original text to accommodate the needs of a television production, will be interesting to see.

Meanwhile there was an item in the Bookseller about the ending being changed for the film version of Gillian Flynn's 'Gone Girl'.

This film adaptations has been written by the author, who has apparently admitted writing a new final scene, a scene that was not in the book.

There is a spoiler in the original article from Variety magazine. So don't click on the link, if you want to wait to find out about the new ending. The film comes out in October this year.

So, do you think it is better to read the book first, then see the TV/film adaptation? Or the reverse, watching the adaptations then discovering how different the original story actually is?


Patsy said...

Definitely see the film first if you plan to do both. Films based on favourite books are almost always disappointing.

liz young said...

I remember reading One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest decades ago and loving it, then being hugely disappointed with the film - they even changed the ending and therefore the entire story. Awful.

Keith Havers said...

I hate it when they change classic novels until they're unrecognisable. My two biggest issues are with The Thirty Nine Steps and King Solomon's Mines.
I've already read Gone Girl.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

I think I prefer to see the film first, Carol, although I'm really looking forward to the those three TV adaptations you mentioned, having read the books! I didn't like Gone Girl the book so I'm not sure I'd want to see the film.

Carolb said...

Yes, I'd agree with you there, Patsy.

Lizy, that seems to be what they've done with Gone Girl.

Keith, I think classics get done so often that it's a relief to read the original story.

I'm looking forward to watching those new adaptations too, Rosemary.