Regarding great novels written by great writers:
Why must people who write scripts for movies, use their "creative license" to make sometimes drastic changes and deviate from the original story of a popular novel? Why can't they "stick to the book?" If the book was good enough to be chosen to be made into a movie, why can't the original content get tranferred over to film? Of course, I have seen movies that followed the storyline, but most are changed, sometimes creating a whole new story? Why?
Anyone out there got any thoughts?

02/20/09 - Booted up my computer this morning, and guess what popped up on MSN? An article entitled "How Hollywood takes good books and makes them into bad movies." Talk about perfect timing!!!

Charlotte Williamson

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You jest, but I blame the Bush "presidency" on Forrest Gump. The American people were led to believe that even if you were a complete moron, you could do anything as long as you could recite a folksy homily or two. Or, in Bush's case, misread one from a teleprompter. The American people, it turns out, were sadly mistaken.
Ha, this could be fun.

There's a book out now that suggests America now is about where Europe was when it lost its colonies - making the move from constant growth and expansion to more management. You could say the Buh ideals work well in the former (along with many other politicians around the world at different times).

Europe, of course, had to fight a couple of huge wars and try every wacko idea from communism to fascism, so let's hope America can make the transition better.
The U.S. has skipped the intervening steps and reverted to being an economic colony of China and Japan: we export raw materials and buy their manufactured goods, on credit terms at least partly determined by them. If Obama had lost the election, our best bet would have been liberation by our neighbors to the north. I, for one, would have welcomed our new Canadian overlords.
The reason they change the story is that the movie viewing public expects something different than is expected by people who read novels.

A movie and a book are different media. Both tell a story, but a movie also has advantages ... it's more visual (duh), cut-tos work better, and background music gives it an emotional boost that is not available in a novel. There probaby is not a book out there that can not be made into a better movie, some really terrible books that can be made into good movies, and movies that royally screw up a book we know and love.

Even when changes are made "for no apparent reason," a movie can be better than the book.

For example, I would like to see Hemingway's TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT be made as Hemingway wrote it, but that movie, I'm afraid, would be far different and probably not as popular as the one we know with a screenplay that included the collaboration of William Faulkner. Ironic, because Hemingway's orginal has the same noir quality as most of Faulkner's work.
An example might be The Bourne Identity.

If I remember it correctly, the TV mini series with Richard Chamberlain followed the book pretty closely, but the movie with Matt Damon didn't.

Which one do people prefer?
The main problem is that books are too long to be made into movies. An average 2-hour movie's screenplay is about the length of a novella, which is about 1/3 - 1/4 the length of a book. So, plot elements must be summarized or left out in the movie, prompting major changes.
Maybe this is a seperate discussion, but I think it's too bad that writing "serious" movies never seemed to catch on. Most original screenplays are for comedies (or sometimes action movies) but almost all serious movies are based books or short stories or are "true" stories.
Writing friends have told me my writing is very visual, and have asked why I don't try a screenplay. I always answer the same thing: the parts of writing I enjoy most aren't in a screenplay. I'm talking about the descriptions, inner thoughts, and some other contextual things that writers can play with, but a screenwriter has to get into the dialog or stage direction. Once in a while I like to turn a felicitous phrase in describing someone's appearance, thoughts, or background, and there's no real place for that in a screenplay. (Of course, this could have something to do with why I'm not published, too.)

I wonder if that's what keeps someone who is writing something more "serious" from going direct to screenplay. The medium doesn't allow them to indulge what they like most about writing.
You may be right, Dana, I never thought of it like that.

I just always figured serious writers had too low a bullshit-tolerance for everything that happens between the writing and the filming. From my experience (limited, as it is) all that stuff about so many hands on a screenplay and comments like, "Could Sam Spade be married, we could get Jennifer Aniston for this," really do happen all the time.
That reminds me of the beginning of The Majestic (Jim Carrey) where they are talking about different ways to change Jim Carrey's character's script. It gets really ridiculous.
Hi, Jon,

My initial comments about profanity were made about writing in general, not your work specifically. If you like to employ profanity, that is obviously your prerogative. I made an allusion to thirteen-year-olds (and I meant both boys and girls, not just boys as you state in your reply) because your comments imply that language should reflect real life. To quote you, "language is language."

If you won't write about thirteen-year-old boys because you don't know any, that's your discretion. Again, I was addressing the question of profanity in general, not as it relates to your work specifically. You are entirely at liberty to write as you desire. However I can think of many reasons why someone would write about child molestation - for the same reasons they'd write about murder, robbery, rape, kidnapping, blackmail e.t.c. Child molestation is just as viable a subject for creative exploration as any other. Countless books have been written about the subject, and a movie, "Mystic River," in which child molestation played a strong role, won oscars for best actor and supporting actor a few years back.

Your first reference to "cozies" concerned books, now you've switched to movies, but I'll play along. Strictly speaking, all mainstream movies are "cozies." The ones that purport to frankly depict sex and violence, teem with unabashed censorhip - no graphic genital sex, no graphic oral sex, no graphic child murders, and so on. The stuff that people refer to as frank, usually exclude actions and statements that offend our sensibilities. So whether we are conscious of it or not, we are constantly stalked by the specter of censorhip.

My writing style is meant strictly for me. I do not try to impose it on anyone. Nor do I make any exclusions about what I read based on style or content. I don't care if every other word in a book is "fuck," if it is creatively written, I will read it. If it contains no profanity, and it's creatively written, I will read it too. My only requirements are that works be creative and engaging. I want to experience every style and theme I can.

I agree with your belief that creativity and realism are "in no way mutually exclusive." But experience has taught me that the pursuit of the latter is often used to disguise an inadequacy in the former. So I wouldn't say I am operating under a "false premise."

And I apologize to the author of this thread as this discussion seems to have strayed from the subject a bit.


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