Why books are better than movies. Period.
My friends are always shocked to find I haven’t seen movies they consider classics. Once they finish gasping and gawking, they inevitably ask “But why, how, have you not seen this amazing movie that everyone else in the free world has seen at least half a dozen times?”
My answer is simple. The time I could theoretically spend going to the movies is instead spent curled up with a good (and sometimes a not-so-good) book.
Is it really so strange that I don’t like movies? I mean, really? My life is books. I’ve consumed literature ever since I was old enough to read it on my own. Before that even. I’ve written stories my whole life, and now have 8 books published. I run an author services company, and am on staff at Evolved Publishing, and I still read for leisure. I love books like… like… seriously, I can’t even think of a strong enough metaphor to describe my passion. I just really really like books, okay?
So, yeah, I didn’t know who the Avengers were when that whole “you should be writing” picture went around. And, yeah, my Facebook friends were appalled, going so far as to revoke my dork status. (Since then I watched The Avengers and all its prequels to make my friends happy, but that’s beside the point). Anyway, why does it matter so much?
Books and movies are kind of the same, but not really.
It’s cool how big screen adaptations bring an author’s work to the masses, to those who don’t appreciate the written word as much or just don’t have the time or attention span to read everything in the world. I get it. I really do.
But movies ruin a lot of great books too. You’ve got to admit that. Some like Cider House Rules or Harry Potter are awesome in both formats depsite their differences. Some books are murdered at the hands of film makers, too.
So why do I think books are better than movies? Allow me to explain via bullet-point list…
- A deep understanding of the inner workings of the characters, their motivations, desires, strengths and faults
- An appreciation for how much certain events impact the character, especially when they do not occur until later in the plot line
- An ability to analyze scenes and situations from the narrator’s perspective and to listen the inner voice that is always running in the background
- An understanding of the history, either actual or invented, leading up to the events
- The possibility of following multiple main characters without confusing the audience or chopping up the storyline too finely
- The option of using flashback regularly and clearly to take us further inside of a character
- The ability to have lengthy and momentous scenes that are comprised predominantly of a discussion between two or more parties — and have it be riveting, rather than something boring you have to sit through while waiting for a more action-packed scene
- Not being confined to a roughly 90- to 150-minute time block in which to tell the entire story
On the other hand, I readily admit that sometimes movies can outdo the novels on which they are based — really, it’s true!
Or take “P.S. I Love You.” The premise seemed really interesting, so I decided to watch the movie when it came on television. Big mistake! This was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, and I convinced myself that the poor author must have been slighted in the book-to-screen process. Given how much I hated the film, I decided I had to read the book in order to see what got lost in translation. Guess what? The book was far worse. I now keep it on my shelf as an example of how not to write. Right next to my copy of “The Starter Wife.”
Another perhaps more striking example (for all of you Bollywood fans, out there) is Chetan Bhagat’s “Five Point Someone”, which is without a doubt, one of the worst books I have ever read — and, mind you, I read a healthy amount of juvenile fiction. Last year’s movie “Three Idiots”, based on the book, is one of the absolute best movies I have ever watched; it’s got intrigue, mystery, relatability, vulnerability and just everything a great movie — or a great book — needs to work well!
Of course, if a Hollywood film agent came knocking on my door and wanted to bring one of my novels to the big screen, you better believe I’m going to say “YES! YES! YES!”
What do you prefer? Books? Movies? Both? Have any of your favorite books been “ruined” when adapted for film? Can you think of any examples where the movie improved upon the book?