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Novels Versus Movies: The Debate Rages On

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