Talk to any reader who has a favourite book that's been adapted for a film and you'll often discover a disappointed person. I'm definitely among them, there have been so many books that I love and then felt let down by the film.
It's nobody's fault, the main problem is that we each imagine things very differently as we read. You will draw on your own experiences, which will vary greatly from mine, so your characters are going to be different to mine. We may read the same book; but we experience completely different stories. That’s one of the things I love about books and stories in general, they are completely open to your own interpretation and even reading the same book you can have a different experience.
I think there's another reason why books can struggle when they are turned into films - the characters don't have enough time to truly form. Today I went to see The Mortal Instruments - City of Bones, having read the book. Overall I enjoyed it; but as with all adaptations there were bits that were very different from my imaginings. There were new bits, some of which I thought made great additions and some parts I really missed seeing.
As I was watching I really missed the slow build of the characters, everything was much faster, as it has to be in a film. The book took me a few days to read, that's a lot to fit into two hours. I realised that I love the gradual process of discovery you get when you read, the unfolding of all the sides of the personalities, the strengths and the flaws, the things that make me fall in love with a character and make me keep reading. Some films do it brilliantly, the ones that give time for reactions on the actor’s faces that give pause to let the story breathe. These you walk away feeling satisfied that the director has done a great job.
I realised that so much is said within a book, not just the dialogue; but the subtlety and nuance of thoughts and actions which if done well brings a character to life in a way that can seem even more vivid than on screen. It's given me pause and made me wonder how I can use it more in my own writing.
Tomorrow is my official back to work on the novel day so I guess we shall see!
Which film adaptations have you enjoyed? What do you think makes them work, or not?
The Choice - imagine a world where sugar is illegal, baking is a crime and the government use diet, exercise and shame to keep people in line. Winner of the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition, Good Housekeeping Book of the Month and The Times Audiobook of the Week. The Choice is available now as a paperback, ebook and audiobook.