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A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

The movie adaptation of John Green’s book, The Fault in Our Stars, is currently in filming, and it started me thinking, why is the question always “Will your book be a movie?” and not “Will this movie be a book?”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3H1T3xqzZY

As a kid there was a particular type of conversation I hated. It went something like this:

Me: Well, what about Harriet the Spy?

Friend: Oh, I loved that movie.

Me: I meant the book.

Ex-friend: Same thing.

I’m not a book Nazi, declaring genocide on anyone who doesn’t agree the book is always better. Because, it isn’t. Not always. The Scarlet Pimpernel anyone? But there’s still that nagging annoyance with anyone who doesn’t know the movie was originally a book, or worse, thinks they’ve seen the movie so why bother reading the book.

Why do good books “have” to be made into movies? Well, as much as I hate it, movies are more accessible. It only takes a couple hours to watch a movie as opposed to days and weeks to read a book. Movies are visually stimulating which a lot of people find more engaging. And finally it’s easier and quicker to portray a scene in a film. A picture really is worth a thousand words (unless you really do the math in which case a movie is actually 216 million words).

But is all that better? There is something to be said for taking the time and care to peruse a good book. A movie has cinematography going for it, but a book has language and voice. It allows you to use your imagination and life experience to visualize the details of setting and characters an author gives. And it allows you to get inside someone else’s head in a way a movie never could.

Again, is that better? In the end, they’re two different media with which to tell a story. Neither “wins” over the other. But the question persists. Will the book be a movie? And I’ve never heard the vice versa.

To be fair there have been a couple instances of movies spawning a book or two. Case in point: Star Wars. Huge expansion on canon there. And there is fan-fiction which, while an entity in and of itself, can’t be ignored. Or look at Twilight which spawned a movie, which spawned fan-fiction, which spawned erotica. Oy. But still the phenomenon is very rare.

So what’s the deal? Are movies still such a novelty compared to the thousands of years of fiction that are out there? I can’t deny that, like John mentioned, there is a thrill to seeing your characters come to life. But there’s a large part of me that’s resistant, that says I’m writing a book and hoping or assuming that book will one day grace the silver screen cheapens what I’m doing. I don’t know. I have no answer. What do you think? Why do we insist on making our most successful stories into movies?

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