My Commentary on Novels as Movies

This week, I’m taking a break from my usual blog posts, to write:

My Commentary on Novels as Movies.

I recently read an article in the book section of our newspaper that I found disturbing. It stated that “if you haven’t read the book, you shouldn’t worry, because a flurry of movies pegged to best-selling novels will be in theaters soon.” These are considered to be primers for those who’ve never quite made it through the “real deal”.

I know that studios can’t please everyone, but I’ve been disappointed by the changes in the story lines and character’s appearances that some studios have made. In USA Today, I read a column censuring the studio because of the actors they chose to play the main characters in Fifty Shades of Gray. To explain it, the column stated that studios are forced to choose the actors they do because of time conflicts, or the actors they want to cast simply refuse the part. Well… I can certainly understand that. Oh, and by the way, I didn’t read Fifty Shades of Gray. No offence to the author. It’s not the kind of story I enjoy reading. I’m just using it as an example here.

In one of his blogs, author Phillip Tomasso stated that his novel, The Tenth House, about a satanic cult, was optioned for a movie, but unfortunately, the production company went under. (Sorry Phillip, perhaps another time.) But the description of his novel reminded me of another novel about a satanic cult that I had read many years ago titled, The House of Dr. Edwardes, by *Frances Beeding.

While the two stories are similar, the difference is that The House of Dr. Edwardes actually did get made into a movie, Spellbound, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. But, you say, that movie wasn’t about a satanic cult. Of course it wasn’t. The studio never used the original story. They rewrote it and kept only the character’s names and the name of the mental hospital where the story took place. I don’t know why the Selznick Studio would bother to option a novel and then change the entire storyline. I can only assume that once the author(s) sold the story, the studio could then do whatever they liked with it. I guess studios can get away with that, much to the dismay of the author(s).

I was told by an editor that while she was working on the manuscript of my novel, Masterpiece of Murder, she could see it as a movie, and even went so far as to say that she thought Sandra Bullock would be the ideal actress to play my protagonist, Charlotte Ross. But petite, blond, blue-eyed Reese Witherspoon would make a much better Charlotte as I described her. Already a disagreement, and the novel hasn’t even been optioned. While it would be great to have my novel made into a movie, I’m afraid that some discontented studio exec would probably turn my Argentine mystery into a South American jungle flick, with special effects added, and change Charlotte’s character to suit the actress who took the part, which would be extremely disappointing to me and to my readers.

IMHO, the difference between seeing the movie and reading the novel is the difference between watching someone being kissed, and being kissed yourself.  Even though you see the action and the romance, you lose the genuine feeling, because you are not able to experience the emotion. So, if you want to get the “feeling” of a story, you should take the time to make it through “the real deal.”

*(Francis Beeding is the pseudonym used by two British male writers, John Leslie Palmer (1885-1944) and Hilary St George Saunders (1898-1951).

If you agree or disagree, please feel free to leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

About Evelyn Cullet

I write mystery romance and romantic suspense novels. I'm an avid organic gardener, and I play the piano. I have a spoiled Black Lab mix., Bailey, whom I adore. Visit my blog every Monday to discover new authors and their novels at:
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12 Responses to My Commentary on Novels as Movies

  1. Jim Kotecki says:

    I have also been disappointed with Hollywood’s use of book material. I’ve always enjoyed the apparent joke they keep playing on Stephen King by systematically ruining every story of his they make into a movie. They ever have him so brainwashed that he thought Under the Dome was a good show!

    It is always surprising when I find a movie BETTER than a book, though. Two that come to mind are Jaws and the 3rd Harry Potter movie.

  2. I think it depends on the quality of the story. I remember feeling relieved when the movie perfectly matched the book: examples “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Gone With The Wind”. To have changed these stories would have been a grave mistake. Each of them were perfect in novel form. There may be other stories, I can’t come up with examples, where the story had weaknesses in plot or scene or character development that needed improvement. In those cases changes would have made the movie better, perhaps better than the book. Still, if I were the author I would be leery of someone saying, “Hey I want to make your book into a movie; with just a few minor changes.” Uh-huh! I would find legal counsel!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Paul. You have a good point when you say that if the story had weaknesses in plot or scene or character development that needed improvement, then the studio would be justified in making changes. I can see the point of doing that.

  3. Cleo Lampos says:

    Your mental image of what is going on when you read a book is superior to what the screen presents. Always love the book better.

  4. M.M. Gornell says:

    Loved, “the difference between seeing the movie and reading the novel is the difference between watching someone being kissed, and being kissed yourself. ” I like both, but you’re so right, different experiences. Very interesting post!


  5. Marja McGraw says:

    I heard a screenwriter speak at a conference and he said that you might as well brace yourself because everyone working on a movie has the right to change things. He said even the actors can change whatever they want. I’m sure it’s been frustrating for a lot of writers.

    And, realistically, there ARE a lot of good stories out there. Why do they keep remaking old movies, and classics, to boot.

    Excellent post, Evelyn. You’ve hit on a subject I’ve also given a lot of thought to.

    • Thanks Marja. The information you provided gives every author who has ever dreamed about having his or her novel made into a movie something to consider. Yikes! I had no idea. And I have to agree with you. Why are studios remaking old movies when there are so many good stories out there?

      • patti meyers says:

        It’s called “risk.” The “suits” are out to make money cuz if their movie doesn’t bring in the cash, they are out of a job. If an old movie was a hit, a remake should also be a hit, or so “they” think. It’s the blockbusters that finance the smaller movies.

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