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Novels Versus Movies: The Debate Rages On

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

In Hollywood, many movies are based on bestselling novels such as The Girl on The Train and the Harry Potter series. From a business point of view, film makers want to take advantage of successful stories, especially when it comes to marketing. When comics are made into movies, people can get excited about a variety of aspects such as the actors who will play the characters and whether or not the movie will follow the same plot as the original story. However, the story has to be shortened to movie length, no more than two or three hours. Auditions have to be conducted to find the perfect actor for each character. Movies need to have sets, outdoor locations, costumes, weapons (for action movies), training for the actors, and so many other things.

Sometimes there can even be disagreements between the film maker and the author of the book. When an author is writing a book, he/she is in complete control of the story, settings, characters, and the plot. On the other hand, when working with a film maker, the author has to take not only the director’s input into consideration, but also the screen writer’s or even an actor’s.

There are some benefits to watching movies based on books. One is the ability to show the characters, the actions, and special effects. This also includes background music, which changes according to the mood or situation in the storyline. Watching the movie gives the audience a different experience; the story is happening live in front of your eyes.

But there’s no absolute advantage of books over movies. Both are mediums of storytelling, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. Stephen King once said “Books and movies are like oranges and apples. They both are fruit, but they taste completely different.”

I took to Facebook and asked some friends and fellow authors a few questions. The questions were:

1) Was the book better or the movie (in your opinion)?

2) Did the movie leave out any critical information?

3) Was one of the characters changed to fit the narrative of the movie?

Keith Cork, an author, tries not to compare the two. Still, he says some stories work better one way than the other. “I love both Game of Thrones and A Song of Fire and Ice. I actually like the Dune movie more than the book. Lord of the Rings…I like the book better. I enjoyed the book Ready Player One more than the movie; I didn’t really care for the movie. There’s no real rhyme or reason to these feelings. Just my preference.”

Percy Moore, a friend with whom I am writing a book, commented that it depends on specific book/movie combos. “Holes comes to mind as something that was a lot better as a book. I liked Holes better as a book because of the order in which it placed the clues, and the satisfaction of it’s big aha! moment at the end when all the clues finally fit into place. The book has two parallel narratives that merge at the end, while the movie does not. Fight Club comes to mind as something that was a lot better as a movie. I like it better as a movie is because it removed a bunch of cringy side character boringness that bogged down the narrative. More Brad Pitt, less of that house of goons, and less liposuction fat. How I feel about removing material to make a book fit into a movie length presentation depends on what gets removed.”

Moore also listed The Princess Bride as an example of an amazing book/movie combo. Between the book’s humour and the movie’s romance, he enjoys both equally.

With books, readers tend to visualise scenes and characters in a particular way. A hundred readers could read the same novel, and each one would visualize it differently. But the film is made from the viewpoint of the film maker. So sometimes a reader may not like what is shown in the movie because it doesn’t align with how they visualize the story.

William Nuessle prefers reading the book. “99.999% of the time the book is better than the movie; even though with computer-generated effects the filmmakers can show more fantastic things than fifty years ago, they are still limited to a couple of hours of storytelling time. The author has no such limitations! Then there are movies that take the book and make major changes resulting in an awful mess — Starship Troopers, The House with a Clock In Its Walls, and A Wrinkle in Time spring immediately to mind. Also, due to run-time limitations, movies usually have to leave out scenes that can be pretty important to the overall story. Then there’s The Hobbit trilogy, which took a book that can be read in about three hours and added a million things Tolkien never intended, stretching the story to nine hours. Characters are often changed for the movie-telling purpose as well, unfortunately.”

However, for people like Judy Bettle, it depends on how the movie is made. “It depends on the movie adaptation. For Harry Potter, the book was better. For Stephen King’s IT, the movie was better. When turning a book into a movie, things have to change or be left out. Sometimes it’s for the best, or sometimes the screenwriter doesn’t like a scene or has never read the book and gets a book blurb instead. For Harry Potter, they got the right actors, but scenes were left out, like the poltergeist and the ghost party. Also, in the books, Dobby helped Harry in the Goblet of Fire, not Longbottom. In the book IT, there is a scene at the end where Beth gives herself to each of the boys (so that they remember when the time comes), but they took that out of the movie due to its gross factor, and I am glad they did.”

Nonetheless, it’s hard to argue against all the advantages of the book. The book almost always has more information and background story where the characters are concerned. Even in the digital age, whether you use a computer, tablet, iPad, or even a mobile phone, a book has a small file size and takes less space. In contrast, a movie has a big file size and can take up a lot of space on a device. So, it’s easier and quicker to download a book.

Also, many people feel better holding a physical book. A lot of people have book shelves filled with books of different genres. It shows the emotional connection to a story, as well as the pride in having an actual copy, sometimes even with author’s signature. The physical copy of a book could have even come from the author’s book tour, representing the memory of an exciting day.

In conclusion, every reader has opinions on the advantage of a book over a movie or vice versa. As mentioned earlier, some prefer the book, some prefer the movie, while some can appreciate both the book and the movie. Nonetheless, both are mediums of entertainment that can be enjoyed by everyone.

Would you prefer to read the book or watch the movie? Please comment below.

Garima has written articles on a wide variety of subjects, such as lifestyle and culture, and she’s also written many book reviews. Recently, she’s decided to devote her energy to writing full time. Garima is open to learning new skills and gaining more opportunities. Currently she’s writing fantasy and contemporary romance novels and has her own writers’ group on Facebook called Beta Readers and Critique Partners; it was awarded one of the top seven finalists under the category Book Communities: Shaping the Future for the Global Book Community Awards 2020.

To read more content by Garima Nabh, please visit her blog.

This blog post was edited by Brittany Morgan.

Brittany Morgan is a developmental editor of fantasy, historical fiction, and paranormal romance, with a particular passion for diversity within these genres. She is also a localization editor specializing in English to Japanese translations. Brittany has worked as a teacher, a translator, and even a model, and she is constantly searching for new experiences. As an editor, Brittany is committed to building strong, respectful relationships with her authors; she believes that positive feedback is just as important to growth as critique.

To learn more about Brittany, please visit her website:
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