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From Page to Screen – Book Adaptations

There is something beautiful and remarkable about reading a book, I think we have all experienced it. An Authors ability to convey an image into our minds is one of the most important skills we can possess. If we have done our job correctly, you will forget you are reading words on a page and instead, be picturing a world, its inhabitants and the action that is going on within the pages in your mind. I suppose it is one of the biggest joys of reading and the reason we get lost in books.

But what happens when we have the opportunity to SEE our favourite tales and adventures on the big screen? Is this something to be looked forward to with eagerness? Or perhaps something that worries the reader, that the screen adaptation may not be true to the epic original and will be missing some vital and favourite elements? It is no secret that when adapting a book for screen there is a significant amount of material that gets left out in most cases. It is extremely rare for a film to tell the story EXACTLY as the book does, though if it is done cleverly enough, we shouldn’t really notice at all.

There have been many books made into films over the years. Some have been a huge success, while others? Not so much. It would be interesting to know just how much author involvement there is in the process. P.L. Travers was heavily involved in the adaptation of Mary Poppins, and from all reports she was still unhappy with the outcome. It is something I think about occasionally, if I were to have the honour of having my books made into films, I wonder how flexible I would be, and if I would be prepared to let certain things be omitted in order to tell the tale visually for an audience. To be honest I don’t know what the answer would be, I am very fond of my work and as the creator I feel like every word is important. I suppose it would all depend on the people adapting it, it is a scary thought putting your work in someone else’s hands (more on that in my next blog!)

Having said all that I think there are some adaptations that have worked brilliantly, and I will talk about a couple of them now. My favourite adaptations would definitely be J.R.R Tolkien’s, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. These are a perfect example of what I’ve mentioned above. I’ve read both books and will always love them, however the films are something to behold. As I’ve said about, sections of the story were cut and reordered to suit visual storytelling, and they both certainly deviate from the original text in some ways, but as far as book to film is concerned they still do a wonderful job of telling the story in the best way possible. I will always wonder how LOTR would have done if they’d left in Tom Bombadil though.

Another film I enjoyed was Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. I read that book so many times when I was a teenager that the pages were falling out. So, it was no surprise at all that I was straight to the cinema when the film premiered. The film was much shorter than I thought it would be, and left a lot out. But on the whole, and despite those missing bits and pieces, it told the story quite well. Tom Cruise was perfect for Lestat in all his arrogance and the film provided just the right balance of horror, drama, comedy and mystique for it to be successful. Its follow on some years later fell short, I believe.

I think there is a lot to be said about how carefully a manuscript is treated during an adaptation. Certainly, Author involvement is necessary and actor choice is important. As with any project, if you don’t have the right people at every stage of creation the whole thing could fall apart quite easily. I find it interesting to watch “Making Of” extras on DVD’s, especially if its an adaptation, and it makes me wonder… if I should be so lucky to have my book made into a film, what will be my process?

I guess that is for future me to find out!

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