Why Do We Turn Books Into Movies?


Every time a new movie comes out, if there’s a book that came first, people start comparing and contrasting the successes and shortcomings of each.

Either the book is better than the move for vise versa, even if they’re both exceptional or cringe-worthy. Without fail, there’s always the need to defend one over the other; some argue the book is always better; some wish there was never a book at all. Some choose movie first, book second. Some will never watch a movie before reading the written work that came before it, if applicable.

We’re never going to stop comparing, the same way we’re never going to stop turning books into movies. But why do we do it—and why do we keep doing it, even die-hard book lovers who can’t see a movie first?

Because we’re human, and we need variety. We need the chance to experience stories in different ways, both reading and viewing.

We want to see the stories we love come to life

If a story is captivating enough, it really can transport its reader out of the real world for as long as the pages keep turning. The way we experience the events of a book is hard to describe, but every once in awhile, the unexpected twist of an already unpredictable plot can leave us with racing hearts and goose bumps long after we close the book.

Watching that same story on a big screen, acted out by real people, made as realistic as possible with sets and effects and soundtracks galore, can leave us with yet another cocktail of feelings that last through the rolling credits and beyond.

We all picture the details of stories differently 

This is one of the pros of sizing up a book to its movie. An author can use all sorts of styles and pairings of words to showcase a scene as we’re reading through it, but we all interpret these things in slightly different ways. In a way, we see what we want to see, and sometimes a writer’s description of a particular character, for example, might not match how we picture them in our own heads.

So when it comes time for the movie versions of stories we’ve already read, it’s our chance to see if the way we imagined these stories aligns at all with the visions of the directors and screenwriters working on their film versions. We’re not always pleased—but then, our appreciation for those same elements of the book shines through.

Sometimes the author and filmmakers work together, and magic happens

While the process of writing, revising and binding a book might eventually expand to an agent, publisher, copy editor and so on, it always begins with one person: the author. Once that book has had its initial successful run, and those movie rights are negotiated, it becomes a full-on team effort to turn that author’s brainchild into a cinema-worthy motion picture.

Sometimes the author gets to be present throughout various milestones in the book-turned-movie process, and when this happens, those faithful to the book do their happy dances in peace. No, the author doesn’t necessarily have a say in who gets cast as whom. But they can still influence small details, and if there do end up being major plot changes, the author can at least defend the decision (which, sometimes, might even make the plot of the movie just a little better than its original form).

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But when you write, don’t you sometimes picture scenes playing out in your mind to get a better grasp on what’s happening? Sort of like a movie? It helps us see things differently. Things that were supposed to be humorous in a book might not come off that way, but laid out in movie form, laughter is inevitable.

Of course, you don’t have to see the movie version, you know. The same way, we suppose, you don’t ever have to read the book. (But … authors still hope you will.)

 What’s the best book-to-movie adaption you’ve seen lately? The worst?

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