We’re all familiar with the book-to-film phenomenon. Someone takes a book, turns it into a movie. Or, in my slightly unobjective opinion, someone takes a book, rips it open, stabs it thirty times in the heart, writes a murder plan, turns it into a movie, and hacks away at my heart and brain as I suffer through said movie.
We all have our own opinions regarding these movies. Some turn out good, others not so much. We also are all familiar with that unfortunate event where people watch a film and then never read the book because they’ve “already seen the movie.” That’s when us readers usually intrude, making futile attempts to convince this poor, ignorant friend that “the book is so not like the movie!” We fail, of course, and return to our computers defeated and angry – prepared to rant to the Internet about this awful incident.
Something that has been on the rise lately though is not movies based on books, but TV SHOWS based on books. Sometimes these are series that get translated to many seasons; sometimes the show begins with a book and deviates from it, becoming a creature of its own.
With films, we walk into a dark room and experience the book we’ve read on screen for no more than three hours. We experience a very basic version of the book – this intimate knowledge of characters and their lives and troubles simply cannot be translated as perfectly in such a short time. Most films don’t convey that feeling of getting into somebody’s head, viewing the world through their eyes. It’s a very special experience – one you can almost only find in a book.
On the other hand, with TV shows there’s suddenly this whole huge time span. These characters we read about become full-fledged people. Our books don’t get condensed – they get stretched. Many times the writers of these TV shows start inventing new situations to put characters through – happenings that didn’t take place in the original novel. Movies that are book-based are usually created in order to pair a visual experience to the imageless one we get from our book. Book based TV shows, however, take these people we’ve befriended on paper and put them in our own very real world. The TV shows aren’t meant to perfectly portray the novels. They’re meant to expand them, to show us what happened before and after or what happened in between in the parts the author chose not to mention. It’s why these TV shows usually tend to stray from the original works they’re based on. On screen these characters come to life and with so much time to fill they become their own standalone individual, no longer based on that snippet of their life that we read about.
I haven’t actually read many books whose series I later watched. I read the first book in the Dexter series, which according to Dexter fans is very similar to the first season of the show, even though later on the show and the book part ways. I still remember the surprise I felt when one day a few years ago I turned on the TV and discovered that there was a Tracy Beaker show. I never took a particular liking to it; then again I was not exactly at the appropriate age anymore.
The Pretty Little Liars series was a different case because I actually read all eight books before the series was announced, and I can still recall phoning my friend and telling her that a TV series was going to be made. The eighth book had an open ending, and when the series turned out to be a huge success Sara Shepherd immediately announced she’d be writing four more novels. I read the first one in this new continuance and was very not surprised when it turned out to be a complete waste of time. It was obvious right from the announcement that this was simply a way to make money off her new fame, and I was both prepared and disappointed. Many of my friends started watching this show and immediately fell in love. I remember being shushed and hushed at every conversation regarding the show because I knew what was going to happen. It was an unusual experience – we’re used to not spoiling short stories – movies and books with clear beginnings and clear ends. With a TV show it’s different. You don’t know how it’s going to be spaced out, what’s going to happen now, how they’re going to wrap up a season. I used to have my friends tell me what’s going on in the show and then I’d compare it with the book progression. In the beginning I absolutely hated the TV show – the characters were all wrong, the plot was completely off track – so much of it was different and made up. It’s the exact thing I hated about book-based movies. The episodes seemed to be airing whenever I decided to watch TV – no matter the time – and of course I ended up watching them and slowly, over time, learning to like this new version of the books I’d read. Unlike my experience with movies, I managed to put the books aside and view this series as a sort of alternate universe to my books – slight similarities mixed with new ideas and inventions. Eventually the show went completely off course and now it’s just a TV show that happens to share a general idea and a couple of names with Sara Sheppard’s original books.
I cannot stand seeing my fictional friends being abused for two hours as every shred of character is taken away from them, but when they’re given a new life with their own adventures the case is different – I see my fictional friends go from limited entities to proper beings. I think the difference in my attitude toward these two mediums stems from the fact that I view movies as a recreation and TV shows as a new creation.