Books vs Movies and Television

We all know those dreaded words “Adapted to fit your television and run in the time allotted” for our favorite big screen movies. Many times it means words are edited even if whole scenes are not cut right now (have you ever tried to watch Star Wars or Indiana Jones on television?… it’s not pretty a lot of the time. I remember the first time I watched them and they weren’t on VHS (yes I’m aging myself here), there were actual scenes missing.

In my opinion the only thing worse than watching a big screen movie on the small screen is watching a book get turned into a movie.

Think about it? What’s your favorite book? Mine as a teenager was The Outsiders so I’m going to use that for this example.


I devoured that book. I must have read it four or five times before I ever saw the movie. I wanted to run around the neighborhood with the greasers, run away with Ponyboy and Johnny and join in on the rumble to defend the gang’s honor at the end of the book. (And mourn with the gang when everything went bad.)

And then I saw the movie.

The very first time, I hated it. With a passion. I thought it was the worst movie I had ever seen. I didn’t care that it was actors that I liked or that it was cinematically brilliant. All the things that I’d loved about the book… were GONE. No more insight into the gang or Ponyboy or all the knowledge that you learn as you lived inside Ponyboy’s mind through the book. Just… a movie that was a bit over an hour long. It didn’t connect with me the way the book had.

Therein lies the problem. As an author, you can delve inside your characters’ minds and show the reader all the things that make them tick or draw your reader along with them on the adventure–show the insides of their thoughts and feelings. But a director cannot do that. All a director can do is show what’s on the screen.

So as much as I enjoy plunking down my twelve dollars (or 5.75 or on the days I’m really lucky and the movie is at the cheap theater my 2.25) to see that new Marvel movie or the next blockbuster, I’m also going to be plunking down my 8.95 or 25 dollars for the next best seller. Or heading down to the local library. Because that’s where my imagination got its first taste of freedom. Not in the darkened theater, but in the stacks of my local library.

Oh, and just so you know? The next time I see a movie that has the tagline Inspired by… and a book title after it? I’m going to be reading the book first. Because I love comparing the two.

How about you?