Lights, camera… action.
Books are often adapted into films and TV shows. Sometimes they get it right.
Often though, readers who fell in love with the book are left with a bitter taste in our mouth after seeing the adaptation. The saying “the book is always better” doesn’t have to be the case if readers were included in the process. The saying could change to, “they’re as good as each other.”
Why include readers in the process of book adaptations?
Read the Book = We Can Speak for the Readers
If readers were included in the process, not only would they have read the book, they can speak on behalf of the reading community. I’d say you’d need to have maybe 15-30 readers included in the process (the number would vary depending on how big the production is). The benefits of having more readers involved is they can hash out things that should stay as well as what things are all right to not be included since we know not everything will get included.
Whilst I think it’s important to remember that it is an adaptation and it won’t be totally like the book as it’s appealing to a slightly different audience, I do think it’s equally important to take into account the existing fan base. The teams of readers picked should be diverse, both in terms of ethnicity, mental health rep, LGBT+ should all be taken into consideration.
Anyone can read a book (providing they can read and it’s in a language they’re able to read in), but not every book will hold the same meaning to all. Some books will mean more to those in the minority. Yet when the production happens it’s often those in the majority who have all the control/power.
Help Keep the Adaptation True to the Book (or as true as it can be)
Sometimes, things that happen in the book don’t get shown on screen. In fact, most times they take the book, grab the framework and then rework a lot of it. It’s fine in one respect if that floats your boat. But in another, it’s just wrong. People didn’t get excited to see an adaptation based loosely on the book, they got excited seeing the characters they loved appearing on screen. Taking that from them isn’t endearing to any reader… it makes us salty.
You could argue that an adaptation isn’t always going to be able to stick to the book, which I agree it won’t. Key scenes, though, shouldn’t be cast aside and key character arcs shouldn’t be remade.
Films and TV Shows need to sell and do well for them to either produce sequels or another season.
Riddle me this then: if film companies can do this so well with their own concepts… why do they fall short 9/10 with book adaptations?
I have a theory you’re welcome to disagree with. In the production process, they’re making their target audience the same age as those who would read the books (sometimes lower) but totally forget about the fan base already there.
Let’s take City of Bones, book 1 of The Mortal Instruments as an example. In the book, the Silent Brothers are described to be terrifying and Shadowhunters are scared of them. The Forsaken are also described to be monsters, deformed etc. In the movie, I actually laughed seeing the Silent Brothers and the Forsaken didn’t make me want to run away. They weren’t that scary?
In the UK our age ratings for films go U, PG, 12A, 12, 15, 18. (I may have missed one but generally speaking, that’s our age ratings). By lowering the film’s age rating to a 12, they had to make sure the content was suitable for a younger audience instead of the average age of the reading audience. I’d have said most readers of the series were older than 14… Had they gone for a 15 age rating, the Silent Brothers could’ve been made scarier. I think that would have added a lot to the film.
Readers spend a lot of time between the pages of our beloved books.
We learn about fictional worlds, remember many details, scenes that the majority of the time get cut from an adaptation. If we could understand what the scriptwriters have to take into account, then we could help them understand which scenes should stay and which should get cut.
The part about forgetting the fan base already there is seen through changing the plotline away from the books. I mean, it doesn’t really matter? We’re appealing to those who haven’t read the books and don’t realise it’s based off a book.
At least, that’s how it comes across to me. The purpose of adapting a book shouldn’t solely be to appeal to a different audience. I feel like it should take into account the readers who support the books, the story which allowed it to be adapted. I know there are some adaptations who do take the readers into account, yet there are many others that don’t.
Am I barking up the wrong tree here? Is it a bad idea to involve readers in the process of book adaptations? Or would it help in the long run?
She's also a Co-Founder of Bookend Events, a quarterly event with the aim to bring the bookish community, closer together.
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