Tag s | Movie rights

When the Movie Isn’t True to Your Story

Most writers love the idea of a film company bringing their books to life. However, if past movies based on books serve as examples, most authors can’t count on their stories being presented with complete accuracy, hence, the phrases “adaption” and “based on” the novel.

Take the book Elmer Gantry, written in 1926. Sinclair Lewis, an atheist, wrote a satire about a minister who should never have been a minister.

One adaptation of this book, a 1960 movie, was controversial enough that the opening cautioned against allowing impressionable children to view the film. Note that the book also stirred controversy and was banned in Boston.

The book includes conversations about the religious conflicts of the day, which are similar to today’s. As a reader, I appreciated the conversations. However, arguments don’t always translate well to film, so the filmmakers ditched them.

In the film, invariably characters are altered and eliminated. For instance, an essential character, Lulu Baines, played by Shirley Jones, appears early in the book but not until late in the film. Her character combines two women, and Lulu is a prostitute in the movie. She is not a prostitute in the book. Although the film works, it’s not accurate to the book. Other characters are changed to fit how the medium works.

Also, consider that film is visual, whereas a book engages the inner imagination. To that effect, the drama must be observable. For instance, an angry congregation pelts Elmer Gantry with eggs in the film. I don’t recall this happening in the book.

Because film as a medium is visual and compact, nuance is lost. A book has the luxury of offering a character study. Character nuance is rare in cinema. Movies must take shortcuts and convey personalities and situations as stark to express their points.

Rare is the author who controls how her book appears on film. So, as the expression goes, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Your turn:

Do you enjoy movies adapted from books? Why or why not?

What is your favorite adaption? Why?

What is your least favorite? Why?

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Once in a Blue Moon Publishing

Someone called the other day and asked, “If I’ve self-published my book and want you to consider it for representation, should I even bother sending it? Or am I toast?” I answered, “It depends.” [For you regular readers, do you think that should become the motto of the Agency?] The …

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News You Can Use – April 17, 2012

Getting by on a Writer’s Income – Lawrence Block reflects on the challenges of the writing life. An excellent article from someone with a half a century of experience.

Microsoft Word is Dead – Tom Scocca in “Slate” makes a bold claim. I would vehemently disagree from the point-of-view of writers and editors and publishers. But he may be right when it comes to office collaborations and the like.

Mary Poppins Author Regrets Selling Movie Rights to Disney – A story behind the story. What we may have seen as a delight the author saw as a violation. Our family happens to have enjoyed both the movie and the original books.

—– Articles about the Department of Justice Lawsuit —–

One Bad Apple Don’t Spoil…on Second Thought – Bufo Calvin weighs in on the DOJ lawsuit

Agency is Dead, Long Live the New Agency – No, the article is not talking about literary agents despite some of your wishes. Instead Philip Hughes looks carefully at the DOJ lawsuit and asks some great questions.

Amazon E-book Pricing a Thorn in the Flesh – Fascinating look at a publisher that has willfully removed all their books from Amazon’s web site despite the risk of lost sales.

The DOJ Lawsuit Won’t Solve the Big Problem – Emily Bell in the UK sees the issue a little differently.

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