On Adaptations

  This month is a bit different in terms of blog content, I know, but please bear with me. What time I don’t spend working on blog content, I’ve been putting into books. Both mine and other writers.

  So instead of talking about a Speculative Fiction movie or show I’ve recently watched (because I haven’t really watched any) I’ve decided to do an opinion piece instead. Because, why wouldn’t all of you want to hear my opinions? Right?

  One thing I think about a lot, as a creator of stories, is adaptation. For most people, when they think of the possibilities of adaptation for a book the first thought is movies. In fact, I’ve been told multiple times by readers that they really want to see Malfunction on the screen. I’m not sure at that point if I should be flattered, or if that means they like my story but not enough to put the work in to read it.

  But adaptation can mean many things. Yes, there are movies and television shows, but audiobooks are becoming increasingly popular, as are audio dramas. Both of these options are currently available to Indie Authors, though the price point is often really high.

  And there are more options. Some books or even just the characters or concepts of a book can be sold for video games, role-playing games, or board games. Or adapted to comic books and illustrated special-edition books. 

  A lot of authors get very excited and even invested in the idea of their books becoming a film. The idea of sitting in a theater or opening their Netflix and seeing their book’s title in bold lettering. But when most of us imagine that, we don’t imagine Hollywood purchasing our work, pushing us out the door, and changing everything about it. Or some of us might. We might rant against “selling out” and promise never to sell our film rights.

  But is that really what is happening?

  I’ve been watching a lot of youtube lately, between reading and writing sessions. One show I’ve really enjoyed is called “Lost in Adaptation” by “The Dom”. It takes different movie adaptations of various books and looks at the changes that have been made, and reviews them based solely on how well they adhere. But even when this show rates the highest based on how close the adaptation is to the original, even he admits that some changes are for the better. Why?

  A visual medium is simply different from novels. For instance, books allow you to convey emotions and thoughts without showing them on a character’s face, or adding something like a voiceover. Audio mediums can give you things like voice inflections, accents, and emphasis that you can’t get on the page without being downright irritating. And things like board games and video games can involve your reader in ways that none of these other mediums can.

  While I am a long way away from any of these options right now, I have had to think about how they might factor into a business model. That, and I’m like most authors: I would LOVE to see my work on the television screen.

  I do hope to turn my Malfunction Trilogy into audiobooks sooner or later and I am tentatively excited about the prospects. And more and more Indie works are getting picked up for film, so who knows? Someday. But when I look at these prospects, I have to see them in two ways. As a business person, and as an artist. And as an artist, I’m terrified.

   I’ve seen so many movies that have taken great books and twisted them beyond recognition. I’m worried about giving my “babies” to other people who might care more about what is cheapest, fastest, or more marketable, without thought to the integrity of my story.

  But here is one thing that comforts me: They are artists too. Sure, a few have “sold out”, whatever that means. But from voice actors for audiobooks, to directors and actors and everything in between, these people are in the business because they love the work.

  When I finish a book and put it into my reader’s hands, I have to understand that my vision of the book is NOT the vision they will have. My readers won’t imagine my worlds, my characters, or even the themes that seem so obvious, the same way I do. And that is a GOOD thing. By opening themselves up to the story, and allowing it to use their imaginations as a vehicle, my readers are allowing the story to truly live. I couldn’t do that alone. My experiences and opinions and thoughts are just too limited.

    Why can’t this be the same for the other mediums? If I was able to find a director who truly cared about the story I want to tell, actors who loved the characters, musicians that wanted to speak to the heart of the work, why couldn’t my work benefit in the same way?

   I don’t know how to work with film, or write music, or act, or record my voice in a compelling way, or write a game. So I myself am limited in how I can present my work. Opening it up to more artists to build in my “world” can make it into something far more beautiful and powerful.

   And I think that is the same with any story. Sure, there are mistakes, but there are also some truly impressive adaptations out there. Jurassic Park. Lord of the Rings. Blade Runner. And many of them have been changed a lot from their original stories.

   So maybe in some cases, a bit of change can be a good thing.

   There are some great adaptations coming up! The Marvel movies, of course, all count, if you are still hanging in there on those. I’m most excited about Disney picking up “Artemis Fowl”, though. It’s one of my all-time favorite MG books, and I can’t wait to see what they do with it. What adaptations are you most excited about? Or, if there isn’t one you are excited about, what book would you like most to see adapted to film or television?

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