The book is always better than the film.
Or so they say.
But there are obviously quite a few problems with this, as there tends to be with any sweeping generalisation. For some, the book is always better than the film, because books are just better than films, which is something I would mostly agree with. Fiction creates and draws us into a world entirely inside our own imagination. At its best, fiction is far more immersive and engaging than a film can ever be.
But, of course, there are plenty of truly fantastic films adapted from utterly mediocre books. And yet it’s not a competition, even if it can sometimes seem that way. Literature and film are two completely different forms of creative expression, two wholly different ways of telling a story.
But the reason they tend to get placed in opposition so often is precisely because of this. They are two different ways of telling a story, two different ways to reach an audience and, ultimately, two different ways to make money from the same story.
Film producers love literary adaptation. They are constantly looking to fiction for great stories or, better yet, for stories with built-in fan bases. And it’s not one-way traffic. Successful films and TV shows are routinely repackaged as novelizations or extended with the further fictional adventures of popular characters.
Book to screen...and screen to book
So, how exactly does a book become a film, or a TV show? What makes for a great literary adaptation, and how do you go about it? How many times have you read a great novel and thought, how has this author’s work never been adapted?
And what about the other way around. Novelizations and book spin-offs? Where do they fit into all this?
This week, I answer all these questions, and more, in a conversation about literary adaptation with authors Paul FitzSimons and Carmel Harrington.