A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
I’m a huge film fan. I love films. I love the magic of really excellent story-telling that takes you from the humdrum of your life and transports you somewhere. I love books too – for much the same reasons, but also for that space that allows me to imagine what exactly the characters look like, the beauty of language, and the insular feel of it – I am the only one in that story at that time, not a room full of other people.
When it comes to adaptations, I’m probably a ‘prefer the book’ kind of person, but rather than rant on about that, I thought I’d share with you a few that have stuck in my mind for different reasons.
1. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption – Stephen King
The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont)
What an excellent film. One of my all-time favourites. When I first watched it I didn’t realise it was a Stephen King adaptation but after watching it I read the story. There’s one difference between the book and movie that strikes me, and I can’t decide which I prefer. It’s tiny really, think back to the end of the film – Red on the bus, giving us his ‘I hope’ speech, the next scene – him walking across the beach of Zihuatanejo towards Andy, the two separated friends finally reunited. Such a powerful scene – you are truly heartless if you didn’t cry. In the book however, Red and Andy never have that final scene. Red gives his speech and it finishes with the line – I hope – while he’s still on the bus heading to the Mexican border.
I can see why Darabont put the final scene in (the viewers have been through a lot – to see the two men reunited shows everything can be alright). But I see why King didn’t too – the message of the book is that hope is a good thing and a good thing never dies, and to leave it on that sense of hope is enough; the reader can decide the rest. Some days I want the scene – others I don’t!
2. The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick
Hugo (Martin Scorsese)
This is one of those rare times when I actually prefer the film and that’s saying something because I love the book! The book is very different though in that it is so heavily illustrated (and beautifully so), so whereas in many cases you find as a reader the film doesn’t ‘look’ as you feel it should, you’ve already been shown this – it’s already pretty filmic – almost like a graphic novel.
For me it also works so well as a film because it’s about film – and other stuff too – but the magic of those first films. It’s a heart-warming story and looks wonderful on the screen.
3. Charlie and the chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971)
This is an odd thing because I’m thinking to myself – yes, the book is great, and there’s a lot more detail and story to it, and Charlie goes in more rooms and has more adventures and a lot was cut out – but also thinking – yes, but the film has the incredibly scary-looking man trying to pinch Charlie’s ticket, and it has that really, really creepy scene on the boat in the tunnel that I always used to have to close my eyes to watch, and I didn’t get the sense of either of those in the book.
Which do I prefer?? Oooo, I don’t know… I think on this one there is no prefer – they’re both different but work equally well. Interestingly though, Dahl also wrote the screenplay for it.
4. The Northern Lights – Phillip Pullman
The Golden Compass (Chris Weitz)
Unfortunately this doesn’t stick in my mind for good reasons. I’m a huge fan of the books and I desperately wanted to like the film. It should’ve been good – great source material, Daniel Craig, cgi polar bears, a perfect Lee Scoresby played by Sam Elliott – but it was just lacking.
Why? To me it felt to me as if the heart of it was missing – too much was explained and so much time was spent on exposition that the story was lost. I never got that sense of dread from Mrs Coulter, nor really warmed to Lyra, or even felt her fear as she tried to stop children having their daemons ripped from them. Such a shame. I hope one day someone tries it again.
But not to end on a negative note… Here are some of my favourite films that have been adapted from books –
Jurassic Park, Blade Runner, I Am Legend, World War Z, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Green Mile, Atonement, Fight Club…
it’d be great to hear some of yours.
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Like so many authors, for as long as I can remember, I’ve made stories up in my head. However, it never seemed an attainable career for ‘normal’ people, so it wasn’t until about the year 2000 when my youngest child was about to start school and the prospect of returning to full-time work loomed that I thought it’s now or never and started taking it seriously. Twelve years, a lot of hard work and loads of rejections later I had an agent (Carolyn Whitaker, London Independent Books) and my first novel – A Brighter Fear – was published.
In those twelve years, as well as many rejections, I was also a finalist in a BBC script-writing competition, and achieved a first class honours degree in Professional Writing.
A Brighter Fear was shortlisted for the Leeds Book Awards and my second novel, A Dream of Lights was nominated for the Carnegie Medal, and awarded ‘Highly Commended’ at the North East Teenage Book Awards.