Dear Movie Writers: Please Read the Book

So I typically am not one to judge a profession that I, admittedly, know very little about BUT in the wake of the news that the final Divergent movie is going to skip the theaters and go straight to TV, I feel like it’s time to say something. This is not an attack. This is a wish. A plea. A request from an avid book reader. The desire of a supporter of books being turned into movies…

Please read the book.

Like, the whole book. And read it again. And read the details twice, or three, or four, or a thousand times. As many times as it takes to understand what makes the book a story. Those little details are sometimes what makes the difference between an Oscar nomination and a series that becomes a Made for TV movie.

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It is not enough to take an idea from a book and make your own movie from that idea. Because the readers who are fans will watch the trailer and already know if you messed with the story or worked to honor the book. Why? Because the readers are the ones who care about the details.

Not all changes are bad. I understand that more than anyone. I’ve written about it here and the whole purpose of starting this blog was to draw the reader to the movie and the movie-goer to grab the book. To create a fandom, whatever the series. A fandom built out of love for the story. But movies have started changing details and parts of the story that are crucial to the story and the reason that people wanted to go see the movie after reading the book.

Want some examples of what works and what doesn’t? Let’s go.

There are a few books / series that come to mind when you ask me what a good transition is but the very first one I will answer is Gone Girl. The book was amazing. The movie was amazing. And you know what? They were the same. Like 98% the same. And the lead actress, Rosamund Pike, was Oscar Nominated for the role. The movie was well received by everyone because the story in the book was riveting and the movie brought that feel to the big screen. The minor details that were changed were irrelevant to the story and what made the movie good. Room is another amazing example. Brie Larson won the Oscar for her role! Again, there were some changes but the main story was there and the movie added to it instead of taking away from it. A few other books I can think of that, in my opinion, were good transitions were Me Before You, the Hunger Games series, the Twilight series, and the Harry Potter series. While they were not perfect transitions by any stretch, many of the changes that were made were time savers or not crucial to the overall story. These transitions are loved by many too. Some of these are the stories that have created unbelievable fandoms and followings that have lasted the years. (Seriously, Harry Potter has a theme park now.)

There are some series and books that just… missed. Like, threw the book out the window and started writing whatever they wanted instead. That’s a great idea, but don’t say it was “based off the novel” when you clearly had your own plans. One writer that I have come to just know is going to have a terrible adaptation when I read the book now is Nicholas Sparks. His books are amazing and heart-wrenching and make you want to keep reading but the movies… They are different. Not just in the minor details like paint colors on the wall (but those are also changed) but I have seen changes including changing a character’s name. That is NOT a time saver and is NOT necessary. It’s stupid. In one of the books, the whole story was about how the woman meticulously planned to leave her abusive husband and the movie had her spontaneously run out of the house. World War Z!?! What a missed opportunity to make a new and different kind of zombie movie! The Giver is another missed opportunity for a book that has stood the test of time. And let’s talk about Divergent. They had a HUGE following before the movies were released, an awesome cast, a big budget and…. they blew it. The first movie should have been our warning that the rest were going to be different but the amount of change in those movies was unprecedented. **SPOILER ALERT FOR ALLEGIENT:In the last book, Tris sacrifices herself for her brother, who has previously betrayed her, and dies as a result. In the movie – she doesn’t die. This was HUGE to show her character and how she has come full circle from her days as a member of Abnegation.** The Divergent series as a whole was doomed from the first movie and just got worse, which is why the latest installment is headed straight to TV. (Sidenote: here’s an article about 26 Changes from the Allegient book to movie. Seriously. 26.) These ridiculous changes are some examples of what makes readers mad.

My question is simple: Why?

Why do you want to change the story?
Why do you want to make changes that were put there for a reason?
Why do you want to fix something that is not broken?
Why do you want to push away the people who were already fans?
Why?

So again I beg you, movie writers, PLEASE READ THE BOOK. Fall in love with it like the other readers did. Fall in love with the details. Fall in love with the characters. And then make the book into a movie that can do it some justice.

Agree or disagree? Leave your comments below! And don’t forget to subscribe to get blogs straight to your email!

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