Mommas, don’t let your novels grow up to be movies

I’ve been writing books for a number of years now, and one of the more common comments I hear from people who learn this is, “Maybe someday they’ll turn one of your books into a movie.”

I hope not.

I realize how surprising that sounds, but I have no interest in having any of my books making it to the silver screen. To me, it’s akin to sending my “children” to an orphanage.

Whenever you write a novel, you have very few limitations on the story. It can be as long or as short as your imagination allows. If you want to write an epic, 15,000-word battle, you can do it.

Not so when it comes to a movie. Movies generally fit into a format anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours. The stories in novels don’t fit into that length of time, so there’s almost always some hacking and slashing required to make the story short enough to make it into theaters.

Once that happens, movie directors tend to take license with changing other things, as well. As Exhibit A, I present The Wizard of Oz. I love the book, and I love the movie, but they are two very different animals.

In the 1939 movie, the Good Witch of the North was named Glinda. In the book by L. Frank Baum, the witch had no name; Glinda was the name of the Good Witch of the South. (For those of you murmuring ‘What Witch of the South?’  keep reading.)

Dorothy had ruby slippers in the film. The book had the magical footwear as silver shoes.

The movie had the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion rescuing Dorothy from the Wicked Witch’s castle, and then a chase with the guard takes place before Dorothy finally liquefies the witch with the bucket of water. The book tells about the Scarecrow and company being incapacitated and Dorothy being enslaved, and the witch’s demise comes when she manages to get her hands on one of the silver slippers, and Dorothy retaliates with the bucket of water.

Dorothy’s return to Kansas in the movie came just after the Wizard’s balloon blew away, and Glinda (the Witch of the North) comes to the Emerald City to tell Dorothy the shoes are the key to getting home—a very simple way to wrap up the story. Turn the pages in the book, and there are several more chapters after the balloon disappears. Dorothy and her friends must travel south to the land of the Quadlings to seek the counsel of Glinda the Good Witch of the South.

I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made my point. The 1939 movie was a beautiful story, and remains one of the timeless films of America. When it comes down to details, though, it’s an amputated version of Baum’s novel.

The films based on J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels are also immensely popular. However, if you look at the books themselves, they are incredibly lengthy and would never fit into the length of a feature film. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was 734 pages when it was released in the United States (the British version was still above 600 pages), but the film was 157 minutes. Can you imagine how much of the story was gutted to make it fit the attention span of movie audiences?

Colors of Love and Autumn 2015 front coverBeing an author, I know first-hand the process you go through when you write a book. My first novel, The Colors of Love and Autumn, came from brainstorming and months of writing, rewriting and polishing. The idea, the dream if you will, came into existence after I spent several days camping in the woos with family. I consider it to be one of the best stories that I’ve ever written.

I used the comparison earlier of my books to being like children, and The Colors of Love and Autumn is my shining star. The last thing I would want is for that star to be shrunk down and reshaped so that it’s no longer my vision, my dream. Someone would have taken my idea and twisted it to make it theirs, pushing out my vision.

Maybe this sounds selfish, but any artist out there will tell you the same thing. Their imagination makes their work unique, and original thought gives it form. Filmmakers who turn popular books into movies aren’t going through the process of developing their own idea. They’re taking someone else’s ideas and giving them liposuction and a butt lift.

I hope the people who read my books enjoy the stories I convey. They’re stories that demand being told. However, if you’re hoping to see them come out in a theater near you, I wouldn’t hold my breath.


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