Books and Films: 2013 365 Challenge #227

Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. Swoon

Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. Swoon

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about books versus films. There seems to be a lot of chat about it on Facebook and Twitter – I guess it’s a perpetual source of debate. It isn’t a subject I have a clear view on. I’ve watched movies of books I adored and been disappointed. I’ve read books after seeing an amazing film and hated the written work. Some books – like ET or Abyss – are almost like study guides to the movie, adding in so much back story and depth to an enjoyable two-hour visual experience.

One thing that has solidified in my mind, if not always born out in my emotions, is that film and book should always be viewed as separate pieces of art and each be judged on it’s merits. I say not born out in my emotions because – as a former historian – I like accuracy. I like to know a piece of historical fiction is based on some level of fact. I hated that Memoirs of a Geisha was presented as truth and yet was entirely fabricated.

So when I watch a film of a book I know well – especially if I’ve read the book recently – I get irritated by what seem to be arbitrary changes. Re-watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire this weekend, I remembered that Dobby helped Harry with the second challenge, not Neville Longbottom. However, since becoming an author, I found the change no longer bothered me (much). On the whole the conflict was the same. Harry couldn’t do the task and, at the 11th hour, was saved by a friend. The story arc was unaffected by the change in detail, and lots of unnecessary animation was avoided.

The old ones are the best!

The old ones are the best!

It can be much the same way when writing a novel: dialogue can be moved from one character to another, gender can change and even locations be shifted when revising a first draft and yet the original story remain intact. I’ve changed character’s ages, nationalities, hobbies, I’ve killed off siblings and parents, sacrificed no end to fulfill a story. (Today I had to change the details of Claire’s story when I researched glow-worm tours and found out they were done in a boat.)

To a certain extent such changes are inevitable from book to screen. You can’t cram five hundred pages into two or three hours – no matter how much a picture tells a thousand words – without changing something. Also books are unique in their ability to present internal motivation. Without the ability to see inside a character’s head, some elements have to alter to allow the character arc to be accountable.

The hardest thing I find when watching a movie version is casting. If it doesn’t match my mental image (or if they change white skin to black, Pelican Brief I’m looking at you) it’s too hard to process. I couldn’t watch the Twilight movies because none of the characters looked as three-dimensional as I had imagined them in my mind. (Sorry, terrible first book aside, I loved the whole series.)

The best of all worlds is seeing a movie poster before reading the book so the right people are in my head while I read. With big fantasy movies like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, watching the movie (a suitable time after reading the book, so the memory is flawed!) enhances my re-reading of the novels. I’ve never been very good at imagining big castles or battle scenes in detail.

No kisses in Jane Austen: adding them is good!

No kisses in Jane Austen: adding them is good!

The same goes for costume dramas of the long BBC sort. I’ve just finished re-reading Pride and Prejudice (finished it at midnight last night. Pass the coffee, please) and I enjoyed it all the more for the ability to visualise the rooms, settings and characters more fully than Jane Austen’s words ever offered. We don’t learn much about Elizabeth except that she has fine eyes and a muddy skirt. While I read, I had the lovely Jennifer Ehle in mind as well as the delectable Colin Firth. It’s the best of all worlds.

As ‘research’ for this post I got to watch the last episode on YouTube. I love the marriage and carriage scene at the end, with the beautiful chaste kiss. No such thing in the book, but who doesn’t love a wedding? The book and TV series combined to generate a deeper emotional experience.

As an aside, I’ve had people say my Dragon Wraiths front cover helps to visualise Leah and set the tone for the book. Maybe that’s why it’s such fun casting actors for your own works, so you can assist others in seeing what you see. For example Colin Egglesfield is Marcio in Baby Blues and Wedding Shoes. Oh yes.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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Claire sat motionless, every nerve, every inch of her skin alert and listening. The dark closed in around her as her eyes adjusted to the gloom. Eventually a pinprick of light shone in the black. Then another, and another. She heard gasps around her, and craned her neck to see.

There, up above, like the stars being revealed by the setting sun, hundreds of tiny green lights blazed across the roof of the cave. The space was larger than she had imagined: the lights emphasised the vastness, as their eerie glow illuminated the contours of the ceiling.

The motion of the boat rocked Claire’s senses, calming her agitation. The walk through the cathedral cave had left her prickling with tension as she’d sought to keep her distance without giving away her unease.

Claire felt movement behind her and stiffened, waiting. She thought she could feel hot breath near her cheek. Resisting the urge to turn around, or brush at her face as if shooing a pesky fly, Claire gripped her seat and continued to focus on the glow-worms. Her ears filled with the sound of breathing, punctuated by the dripping of water. Waitomo. Water cave. Focussing on the facts, on what she would write in her blog, Claire casually leant forwards to get a better look at the luminous universe above her head.

As if the movement freed her, Claire felt the hoops release from around her lungs, letting in dank, stale air. Suddenly she needed oxygen. The boat became a prison. She wanted to push at the people around her, jump over the side and swim for the exit visible in the distance. Digging her fingers into the seat until it seemed her knuckles might cut through her skin, Claire concentrated on breathing in and out. She thought she could hear a chuckle behind her, but she refused to turn round.

At last the boat bumped against the shore. Claire scrambled forwards, not waiting for the guide’s offered hand. Almost tipping the boat in her haste, she gave a sob of relief as her feet touched solid ground. Without looking back, she strode up the slope and into the light.

*

Claire rested her back against the damp stone and gave a shaky laugh. When will you learn, missus? You should never have got into that pool.

The last twenty-four hours were a blur of panic and hiding. She’d fled from the beach pool as soon as the guide told them it was time to get back on the bus, draping her sarong around her tingling skin and practically running off the beach. If the driver had been surprised to see her sit at the front of the coach he didn’t comment, although she sensed something pass between him and Neal when the latter boarded a few minutes later. He’d chuckled as he walked past, setting her heart racing.

Claire had gone straight to her room at the hostel, not even leaving for the legendary fish and chips when the rest of them did. In the morning it was more of the same, and at the gold mine too. Constantly sticking near the guide, paying attention to the tour, taking notes and pictures. The perfect image of an enthusiastic tourist. All the while her brain had churned, trying to make sense of her emotions. That she was attracted to Neal was undeniable. That he was dangerous, equally so.

He’d beaten her in the tour; climbing into the boat when she was already seated, and taking a place just behind her. He had breathed one word during the journey, a whisper of a sound that she heard as, “Chicken.” His voice, more than the word, had set her pulse racing.

What do I do now? I don’t want to stay in this town longer than necessary, but that means getting back on a bus with him, checking into another hostel and knowing he’s sleeping down the corridor. Why me? I’m not exactly his type.

As she thought the words she knew they weren’t true. Neal had watched her since day one. Not flirting, not making advances. Just watching. Like a panther in the long grass.

Claire shivered. The caves had been cold and she’d left her jacket on the bus. Realising the rest of her tour had gone back, Claire hurried away, not wanting to be left behind again.

When she arrived at the bus it was full and the driver was just beginning his head count. A quick scan of the interior showed her there were only a few free seats. She took one at the front, next to a middle-aged man wearing glasses and a tank top. She could almost feel Neal’s smirk from his position towards the back of the bus.

Feeling like a cornered mouse, waiting for the pounce of soft and deadly paws, Claire pulled out her book and pretended to read.

***

Pinteresting

Amanda Martin's Pinterest board for Pictures of LoveI’m always late.

I was late getting the kids to nursery this morning. We were late to a Christening yesterday, although, thankfully, so were the baby’s parents. I am always sliding into the chair at the doctors or the dentist hoping that they, too, are running late.

The thing I am usually proud of being late for is getting on a band wagon.

Who wants to jump on a band-wagon too quickly? 

Sometimes it’s because it’s a band wagon and I don’t want to climb on until rush hour has past and it’s a bit less noisy and smelly : I didn’t read any Harry Potter until the third book was out. I only saw Avatar last month and I’m resisting the urge to see what all the fuss is about with Fifty Shades of Grey.

Sometimes I’m late on a band wagon because I’m stupid. I don’t think something will work for me or I don’t see the point. Like Twitter and Pinterest. Now I’m still there with Twitter: I have an account and tweet occasionally (see, I know the terminology, just about) but I can’t get into it. I think maybe you need to be able to see it all the time on your phone or computer to make sense of it. My technology isn’t there yet. It leaves me feeling like the person arriving late at a party, who comes in mid-conversation and doesn’t understand the punch-line to a joke because they didn’t hear the beginning.

Pinterest though, now that’s a different matter. I originally dismissed Pinterest as not useful or relevant to me, although I enjoyed seeing my friends’ posts; links to lovely crafty things that I might have the time one day to do with my children. I hope. Then I read an article, sent to me by LinkedIn, about how photographs can help people engage with your brand. I don’t have a brand, but I am about to self-publish my first novel. So I thought I’d better see what Pinterest was all about.

And oh my how much do I love it?

I love photos anyway, photography being a former attempted-career. And I have always had scrapbooks for my novels (usually on my laptop but sometimes actual physical cut and paste ones.) For my first novel, Finding Lucy (currently unfinished because I inconveniently went into labour before completing the first draft) I have a giant scrapbook of pictures of the main characters, taken from stock photo sites. There are also biographies, timelines, star signs, pictures of their houses including floor plans for ease of writing scenes. It is my treasured possession.

I haven’t done a scrapbook for Pictures of Love, my current WIP, because if I get scissors or selotape out now, the kids are on me like ants on jam. So I have a file on my computer, full of photographs I took when I went to London to visit my locations in Fleet St, Earl’s Court and so on, as well as headshots of people I have found that look like my characters do in my head.

And now I can pin all those pictures in one place and carry it around with me anywhere I can get internet access. I can share it with my friends, show my beta readers what I think my characters look like and see if they agree.

I can put pictures on a site without worrying about copyright, as everything is sourced. [Update: it turns out this isn’t enough to stop you worrying about copyright. Since writing this post I have deleted most of the content from my Pinterest boards for fear of infringing someone’s copyright. I may be over-reacting, but better to be safe than sorry. You can read about someone who has learned this the hard way here and here (comment #76).]

And because everything is sourced I erase another problem – file location. For some of the images in my scrapbooks I wasn’t organised enough to keep internet URLs.

Idiot.

I have spent the last two days trying to track down all the images online (sorry family). And thankfully I have found most of them. My husband is not so lucky. I designed a fab (if I say so myself) front cover for his children’s novel Max and Shady, and got a copy printed for Christmas a couple of years ago. Only now he wants to publish it online and we can’t use the cover because we can’t find the image in order to purchase usage rights.

So Pinterest I thank you: for keeping me in tune with the zeitgeist, for giving me something fun to do while watching Euro 2012 (not that I need to worry about that so much now) and most of all for keeping me organised.

If you want to check out my Pinterest boards, to see what my sexy leading men (and women) look like, you can find them here.

Have you used Pinterest to plan out your novels or create your universes? How has it worked for you?