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.


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: 


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.


Scatty and Battered: 2013 365 Challenge #108

Wind-battered Bamboo

Wind-battered Bamboo

It’s looking like my darlings won’t be going to nursery tomorrow, as littlest Martin still has a temperature of 102F and eldest Martin looks like an extra in a zombie movie. Unless they magically recover over night I’ll have to keep them both home: meaning another four days without a break.

We’ve lost about £1000 to this flu virus, between lost wages and missed nursery sessions. Never mind a week of shoddy blog posts and a house full of grotty, snotty temper.

The weather has warmed to a balmy 19C (66F) but a relentless wind blows until we feel as battered as the shredded bamboo in the garden if we venture out.

I realise that many parents never get a break. And some parents have grandparents down the road who can help. Everybody has it different. My parents get back from holiday late tomorrow (I have to remember to collect the dog and buy milk and bread at some point) but I’ll be as welcome as the Flu virus if I turn up before the kids are healthy! Can’t blame them. Who’d want to come back from a fortnight of sun to get sick?

In the mean time we battle on through the tears and the grumps and the boredom and try not to inflict our germs on the world. I took them to the garden centre today, knowing it would be deserted and we could be fairly confident that we wouldn’t be coughing within a metre of anyone (the guidelines, apparently). I’d like to be more than a metre from the coughing too, I have to admit. A week of little sleep and a sore head means my nerves are a bit frazzled. I feel like Mrs Bennet.

Mrs. Bennet deigned not to make any reply, but, unable to contain herself, began scolding one of her daughters

“Don’t keep coughing so Kitty, for Heaven’s sake! Have a little compassion on my nerves. You tear them to pieces.”

“Kitty has no discretion in her coughs,” said her father; “she times them ill.”

“I do not cough for my own amusement,” replied Kitty fretfully.

I'll Huff and I'll Puff and I'll Blow the Roof Off

I’ll Huff and I’ll Puff and I’ll Blow the House Down

Poor Amber apologised for coughing earlier when I let slip some grump about the syncopated rhythm of the two of them. Bless her heart.

I grew up in a house where noise was forbidden (boiled sweets and crisps were sucked, music was rarely played, chattering frowned upon) and I try really hard not to recreate that environment, even though such an upbringing has made me just as sensitive to noise as my father.

At least I have Jane Austen’s words to keep me in check. Which they do. A lot. Who wants to realise they’re turning into Mrs Bennet? (The longer I’m a parent the more I have sympathy with the woman and I’m sure that could never have been Jane Austen’s intention!)

Ooh look, another rambling blog post managed. I’m slightly amazing myself at my ability to keep up with postaday despite the headache and the tiredness. A bit like churning out essays on virtually no sleep. Unlike my essays though, I don’t think my posts are going to get inexplicably high marks as a result of sleep-deprived genius (it happened rarely, but it did happen! One tutor threatened to reduce my A grade when I confessed the essay was written at 2am in two hours. I thought that should have made the grade higher!) The rambling diary bit I can do, but what on earth am I going to do with Claire? Hmmmm.


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:


The sound of knocking dragged Claire from deep slumber.

“Just a minute.”

She rubbed sleep from her eyes and swung her feet out of bed, glad sharing with Sky had ensured she’d worn her pyjamas. As she reached the door, Claire wondered who came knocking in a hostel where she knew no one. Maybe the baby’s mother wants the thermometer back. I guess people with babies get up early.

Unlocking the door, Claire peered round and met the cheery gaze of Peter, the hostel manager.

“Good morning, I’m sorry, did I wake you?” He frowned, but it didn’t diminish his smile for long: a mere cloud scudding past the sun.

“Er, I guess. What time is it?” Claire brushed her hair back from her face, dreading to think what she must look like.

“It’s just gone ten o’clock. Sorry to disturb you. The lady next door is leaving today and wondered if she could have the thermometer back? There’s a Pharmacy in town where you ought to be able to purchase one, should you wish.”

Claire nodded and turned to retrieve the device. She handed it into Peter’s waiting grasp, unable to find any words.

“How is little one this morning?” He peered instinctively past Claire into the room, then seemed to realise how intrusive that was and averted his gaze.

Swallowing in an attempt to moisten her parched throat, Claire gave a shrug. “It was a long night.”

Peter nodded and Claire wondered if he had children. Maybe this night-time experience was some parenting rite of passage that all had to endure. Her head pounded as if she was the wrong side of a heavy night. How do parents do it? At least I get to give her back after a fortnight.

“If you need something to entertain little one today, they have Easter activities at Holkham Hall. Face painting, Easter egg hunt, that kind of thing.”

A tiny voice called out from the ragged pile of covers on the bed. “Will the Easter Bunny be there with my eggs?”

Claire laughed. “You seem brighter, Sky. Would you like to see the Easter Bunny?” Please let there be a bloody bunny.


“Say Cheese, Sky: let me take a photo for your Mummy.”

Sky leant against the brown rabbit in the Victorian gown and shone a wide smile. Her eyes glittered with latent fever and Claire hoped whoever was under the bunny costume didn’t catch her niece’s germs. Surely there are enough cold viruses wandering round at an event like this?

Claire looked around at the painted faces of happy children; the egg-shy game; the clusters of families eating ice cream, and felt a strange sense of belonging. Normally she’d run a hundred miles from such an event. Especially on April Fool’s Day. I guess I’m the fool today, shaking hands with a giant bunny and wandering around with a sick girl whose face is covered with painted tulips.

As Sky skipped over and hugged Claire’s legs, before showing off the chocolate egg in her hand, Claire felt a smile stretch her tired face. She yawned, then laughed as Sky yawned too.

“Let’s go find the coffee shop. Auntie Claire needs some caffeine.”