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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Books to Movies

   
Author Topic: Books to Movies
Owasm
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I wanted to read an old adventure novel to get some aspects on point of view and narration. I picked Captain Blood, because I knew it was also a movie.

The narration was more omni than anything so the POV wasn't particularly close and skipped around. But I paid attention to the plot as well.

I found the movie on the internet and watched it last night. Big chunks of plot and all of the interactions with the Spanish save one encounter were wiped out along with their characters in the movie. The Spanish characters were memorable, but I found as I watched the movie that the story as told on film was basically a big rewrite with a ton of tightening. The writers did a great job with the book.

It was sort of an epiphany for me. I've always been an automatic 'the movie screwed up the book' kind of person, but the exercise taught me a big writing lesson. You can really remove big chunks of a big story and still have it maintain the feel of the story. Now obviously lots of fiction has been chopped up in the creation of the screenplay and have lost that feel. Fans of classic novels (e.g. Jane Austen, Harry Potter)are very persnickity as to what they will accept.

My big takeaway was that if you really understand your story and its essence, you can do significant pruning AND keep your message in the work. And that doesn't relate to size. A short story can be shorter with elements you like taken out and still work.


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Meredith
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Well, if you're looking for more examples, try SCARAMOUCHE (I don't remember the author but wouldn't be surprised if it was the same as CAPTAIN BLOOD) and you can't possibly miss THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL, by Baroness Orczy (both also movies).

Though I suspect you can get by with more omni POV in a straight up adventure story, the conventions (if you will) have changed. To see how much, try slogging through anything by H. Ryder Haggard (SHE, KING SOLOMON'S MINES, again, both also movies).

If you want to look at something with a little more depth (intrique, romance, redemption) in addition to the adventure, try PRINCE OF FOXES, by Samuel Shellabarger (also a movie). One of my personal favorites.

The idea that we can cut our darlings and still have the core of the story is a useful one, though. Sometimes, the movies did that well, sometimes not.

For straight up adventure with absolutely no redeeming qualities, my quilty pleasure has always been "The Crimson Pirate" with a very young Burt Lancaster. So far as I know, that was there's only the movie version.

(I was an adventure movie junky in my youth. )

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited July 08, 2010).]


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rstegman
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From what I heard Years ago,

A book is about 250 pages.

A movie is only like 150 pages.

the hundred pages is the stuff we recognize is missing, the part where they ruined the story with..

Bigger the book, more is lost in the movie.


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tchernabyelo
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Yes, the actual "length" of a typical movie, turned into a story, ends up being more novella than novel. Of course there are variations within that - a movie can portray scene and setting without using any time as it' there in the same shot as the action, whereas a book can't - but if the book is even remotely plot-heavy, stuff is going to be lost on screen.

"Shogun", admittedly a doorstop novel, was filmed as a 12-hour mini-series or something along those lines and left out parts of the book even then. Amazingly, there was then a film release, cut down from the 9 hours to 2, which I didn't see but which I imagine was utterly incomprehensible.

[This message has been edited by tchernabyelo (edited July 09, 2010).]


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robertq
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Others for comparison:

Hunt For Red October

The screenwriters did a great job of collapsing events


David Brin's The Postman

Brin is pretty sophisticated about the change from prose to film, and he
actually liked much of what they did.

Jurassic Park -- note Spielberg's brilliant visual storytelling

Dean Koontz' Phantoms. Koontz also did the screenplay so there's no excuse that 'they butchered my novel'
but IMO, the screenplay doesn't work as well as the book, which is rated in the top ten most frightening horror
novels ever written


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aspirit
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The Postman is an interesting example, because the novel and movie carried different themes. I liked both versions when I experienced them as a child, and I doubt a direct translation of the novel had any chance of success in mainstream theaters.

The movie writers removed the feminist aspect as well as the sense of longing for the survival or return of computers. The anarchists were the scariest villains in the novel, whereas an opportunistic dictator is the main foe in the movie. And, of course, the plot changed.

Sometimes, all that remains of a good novel in its translation to a good movie is its core--perhaps the basic setting, the spirit of a main character, and a memorable image (like a postman walking across a post-apocalyptic America). This is encouraging. With a solid core, there may be as many right decisions as wrong ones.


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rstegman
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Frank Herbert's DUNE was a good example.
He worked with two people on the script and it still failed.
The book has all sorts of depth creating detail explanations. when the movie was made, they lost explanations.
The core of the story was a boy trying to regain the inheritance he was supposed to get from his father. Herbert lost that part while trying to get in the details of the book. (I remember reading a comment like that years ago so it is not really mine)

Screen writers have to find the absolute core of the story, and then do what they can to then bring in something that resembles the book.

One of the best examples of matching movie to book, was JAWS. I loved both of them when they first came out. They removed a love scene and added something else, but the movie was the book, and they were on par with each other.

Of course, sequels to movies invariably miss what made the first movie great.


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Robert Nowall
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What about the Tom Clancy novel---and I forget the name, 'cause I've only heard it talked about---where the novel has Islamic terrorists blow up Baltimore (I think), and the movie changed that to more believable neo-Nazis.

Gone With the Wind was a terrific movie---but even at four-plus hours there was a great deal of interesting stuff left out. Did you know Scarlett O'Hara had a child by each husband before Rhett Butler? (Read it and find out...)

J. D. Salinger was so distressed by the one movie made from one of his short stories that he reportedly vowed never to sell anything else to the movies. Now that he's gone to the Great Procrastinator's Lair in the Sky, I wonder how his estate will handle the issue...

Dr. Seuss before his death, and his widow after that, have both wound up so distressed by some of the adaptations of Seuss's work that they've stopped further development work. (Think Mike Myers's potty-mouthed Cat in the Hat for an idea of what happens when care is not taken...)


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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The guy who wrote THE PRINCESS BRIDE (William Goldman) and the screenplay for BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID also wrote a couple of books about screenwriting: ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE and WHICH LIE DID I TELL? which give some great insights into how books are adapted into movies.
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JSchuler
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quote:
What about the Tom Clancy novel---and I forget the name, 'cause I've only heard it talked about---where the novel has Islamic terrorists blow up Baltimore (I think), and the movie changed that to more believable neo-Nazis.

Sum of All Fears, although I don't think "believable" is the term I would use for the switch.

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Robert Nowall
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quote:
...although I don't think "believable" is the term I would use for the switch.

I was being sarcastic.


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