The Book vs The Movie

Dec 8, 2010 by

The Book vs The Movie

I get a lot of questions about this one.

Q: What did I think of the movie version of Pay It Forward?

A: I thought the book was better. Then again, I would, wouldn’t I?

When I say that, just about everybody says the same thing: “Oh, the book is always better than the movie.” Which leads me to wonder why, as a society in general, we see so many movies and read so few books. But that’s another rant for another blog.

I have theories as to why the book is always better. Theory 1. The author is not the person responsible for recovering an investor’s fifty million dollars, and so spends less time second-guessing him- or herself. Though I expect we second-guess ourselves more than just about anybody except the person in the previous sentence. Theory 2. Most books have only one author. A Hollywood movie is like the textbook definition of too many cooks in the kitchen. Theory 3. People don’t seem to realize that Hollywood will make whatever kind of movies we will support, and that we “vote” with our box office dollars.

Pay It Forward The Book and The MovieIf I had made the movie Pay It Forward: a) the world would have actually changed at the end; b) Reuben St. Clair, my African-American Viet Nam vet protagonist would have appeared in said film (Eugene who?); c) all the gay, transgender, physically large, or minority characters would not have turned thin, white and straight or disappeared entirely (ah, Hollywood is a magical place!); d) I would have made sure that the only black and (arguably) Hispanic characters left were not gang-bangers and knife-wielding thugs.

Q: If I had it to do over again, would I still sell them the rights?

A: In a Hollywood minute.

Let’s face it. It’s what you call a high-end problem.

I know some other fortunate authors are facing similar happy disasters, so I’ll offer some tidbits of advice for the adaptation experience.

1) A useful mantra: “It’s not my fifty million dollars.” 2) A great quote from Jacqueline Mitchard: “Where I come from, you can either take the money or you can moan about the process, but not both.” My advice? Take the money. 3) Remind yourself that they are not, as people will suggest, “Changing your book.” Go back and read your book. You will find it blissfully unchanged. This is not your book, it’s their movie. 4) If your problems feel overwhelming, complain to your writer friends who are still struggling to get published (example: “Boo hoo. They cast Kevin Spacey in my movie instead of Denzel Washington). They will help you regain perspective.

I really didn’t mean for this blog to be heavy on advice (or lists). But since I got off on that foot, one last bit of advice.

If you are not a writer: Never say to a writer, “I’m a big fan. I didn’t read the book, but I loved the movie.” If you are a writer: Take it as a compliment anyway.

Catherine Ryan Hyde’s most recent book is Jumpstart the World

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1 Comment

  1. Dear Catherine; As a writer I pray I will have the opportunity to follow your advice. At 80 years of age and still “struggling to get published” I write with an eye on the friendly neighborhood undertaker knocking at my door, so prolifacy is the order of the day. I’m kinda like the guy who throws darts at flies on the wall. If the reward is how many stuck flies you can count at the end of the day then you probably should find another way to kill flies but if the reward is that you can still throw the damn dart then throw ’till your arm falls off. Every novel I finish it another dart in my quiver…Enjoy your writing immensly…John W. Strobel III