If you’re even a little bit fanatical about reading, chances are you prefer to read a book before you see the film or television adaptation.
It’s not something that non-readers always understand, but we can be very precious about the novels we love and feel strongly about seeing them on the big screen. Sometimes a film will turn out brilliantly and that only intensifies our love of the book it was based on; but a bad adaptation can incur the wrath of readers everywhere.
And unfortunately, trying to enjoy two versions of the same story can have its downsides.
The book will always be canon
For most book lovers, no matter how good the movie might be, the novel is ultimately the source text and any changes to the plot or to the characters can be difficult to accept.
How many times have you been watching a film or show adapted from a book that you love and the storyline suddenly veers away from the original? I bet you always respond with: “That doesn’t happen in the book.”
Changes like that can immediately put fans of the book off, even though they might not make too much difference to the story. In fact, they might even make it better.
Plus, this line of thinking can easily bring you into conflict with anyone who hasn’t read the book and is happily following the screen version.
Interestingly, Game of Thrones is going into unknown territory in the next couple of years, as the TV show moves past the books and, by virtue of being released first, will become canon. That’s bound to be tough on dedicated readers.
The actor might not match your vision
There are plenty of examples of films that have annoyed loyal fans of the novel by casting actors who don’t fit the author’s description of a character.
When you’re reading, you picture each character in your mind and it can be difficult to believe in an actor who doesn’t fit that mould. It can put you off watching the adaptation altogether.
But when the casting team get it right, well…
A bad adaptation can put you off the book
This is especially true of a series. I always loved the Twilight books, despite their flaws, and started off rereading them all before each new film came out. But as the films became progressively worse, I stopped reading. In fact, I haven’t read the books since about the third film.
The later films have ultimately dampened my love of the novels – never mind the original movie, which was actually quite good.
Some people don’t realise there ever was a book
Do I even need to explain how annoying this is?
Especially when it’s followed up by: “Why would you bother to read the book when you could just watch the film?”
Not the best thing to say to a book lover!
You become obsessed with minor details
Once you notice a few things in the film or the TV show that are different to the book, you stop following the adaptation and start watching out for other changes.
Even though those changes might actually improve the story – cutting out a minor character, or trimming down a storyline that drags – they rankle precisely because they’re different.
Often they’re insignificant details that you would have happily overlooked, had you not already been sensitive to the previous changes.
The problem with cover art
This is a big problem for me, particularly with a long running series that gets picked up for television partway through, like True Blood. Once the adaptation takes off, the publishers always change the cover art on the novels to tie in with the screen version.
That means half your collection features the original artwork, whilst the rest usually has photos of the cast on the cover. And unless you want to go out and purchase all the previous books again, you’re stuck with a mismatching collection.
In fact, the Sookie Stackhouse books went on for so long that the UK version actually went through three completely different sets of cover art.
You can’t discuss the plot with others
If you’re watching the screen version with someone who hasn’t read the book, it can be so frustrating to keep quiet about plot twists, whether or not they’re different to the novel.
You want to discuss the story and try to predict what the new ending might be, but you don’t want to spoil it for your oblivious friends and family.
You have to experience someone else’s version of the story
When you read a book, you internalise it, imagining things in your own way and interpreting details of the story in a way that might be different to that of another reader.
But chances are that the team behind the film have a different view of at least some parts of the story. And this is their version.
So you no longer get to see the character you imagined, or the locations you saw in your mind’s eye. Sometimes it can be hard to reconcile the two versions and just enjoy what you’re seeing on screen.
Did that happen in the book or the film?
I have to admit, this is becoming a massive problem for me when it comes to Game of Thrones. George R.R. Martin’s plots are so intricate and there are so many characters, that I forget whether things happened in the novels or on the screen.
And as my hubby hasn’t read the books, I can’t ask him for fear of revealing a plot twist, so I have to silently stew as I try to pin down the details.
The comparison trap
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much you’re looking forward to an adaptation, or how amazing it turns out to be, you know that 99% of the time, the book is already better than the screen version.
Unless it’s The Vampire Diaries – but then there has to be an exception to every rule, right?
So, what problems to do you have with the screen versions of your favourite books? And which adaptations are actually worth checking out?