Wednesday, October 24, 2012

RTW: Adapting the Words

Welcome to our 153rd Road Trip Wednesday!


Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link - or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments.

It isn't surprising that this month's Bookmobile selection, Leigh Bardugo's (@LBardugoShadow and Bone, has sold film rights; the darkly magical world of the Shadow Fold begs for an on-screen translation*! But that got us wondering. We'd like to know, in your opinion, what is it that makes some books seem ideal for a film translation?

(*And don't forget, you can chat with Leigh about the movie, and any other burning questions you have about Shadow and Bone, during YA Highway's live chat with her next Tuesday, Oct. 30!)

The moment I saw this prompt, I giggled. Why? Well, it just so happens that I'm reading "A Theory of Adaptation" by Linda Hutcheon right this minute (I literally just set the copy down to check on the Internet and make sure it's okay), and my head is full of the why's and how's and other theoretical thingamawhosits surrounding adaptations from books to film to opera to plays to poetry to video games and beyond. 

Now, don't get me wrong. It's actually quite enjoyable. Relating to this RTW, one question that Hutcheon discusses is:
Are some kinds of stories and their worlds more easily adaptable than others? (15)

Well, in short, yes. Some books naturally lend themselves to visual translation. Books that contain a wide breadth of imagery and visual scope give screenwriters and directors more to work with on the visual aspect of films. However, another important piece of this adaptation game is the style of the novel. "Linear realist novels" are easier to adapt to the big screen than what we call "experimental" novels (Hutcheon 15). (Look at me using MLA format in a blog post!) 

So, basically, novels that follow the plot pattern of cause and effect, point A to point B, etc., are easier, and therefore more likely, to be translated to movie form. It's more difficult to translate stream of consciousness novels or novels narrated by a single protagonist with lots of internal reflections, unless the director is going for the Sundance effect and cares about "art" and the "craft." If that's the case, I say more power to them. Indie theatres need films too. 
The most successful films are adapted from books that do meet the requirements of "linear realist novels," at least in the respect to the linear part. I happen to believe that the term should be retooled to say "linear fiction novels" due to the preponderance of fictional--often fantasy--novels that were made into movies or are currently in the works. Ex.: The Hunger Games series, Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit, Percy Jackson series, Twilight series (I'm ready for this to just be over...),  The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Eragon (although that was kind of a flop), City of Bones, and now Shadow and Bone, and the list could go on forever. 

You also have to take into consideration the relative success of the novels themselves. A production studio is not going to take a risk on a novel adaptation unless that novel has a large fanbase and they think they'll sell bajillions of tickets. Another component is the book's theme and connection to other, highly successful adaptations. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," pretty much sums it up. Exciting or otherwise appealing themes (dystopian boom, anyone?) are what big studios count on to drawn in the public. People like what they like, and if the public is clamoring for more Vampire/Werewolf dramas, then the film companies will rush to give it to them. In exchange for their money, of course. 

We, as humans, are attracted to the known without often realizing it. We want more of whatever satisfies our desire for escape and adventure, but it has to be within the boundaries that we are comfortable with. Movie studios recognize this fact and use it to determine what they produce. 

It's a tough business, but if an author is lucky enough to attract the right attention, he or she might just see his or her novel adapted to the big screen. Wouldn't that be exciting? 

Until next time...

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