I read Sense and Sensibility in high school when I had just discovered Jane Austin and couldn’t get enough of her writing. That was many decades ago. Since then, I have watched the 1995 movie version several times. I think that I have a good excuse for not noticing then the differences between book and movie. Now I am listening to an unabridged version and had a bit of a shock when certain characters were introduced.
There’s no Lady Middleton in the movie! Sir John Middleton has no young children. And Lucy Steele’s older sister apparently was swept out to sea before she could leave Plymouth. If not for the skillful way Emma Thompson handled the rewrite for the script and enhanced Margaret’s role, I might be absolutely enraged to the point of clutching my pearls.
This explains why the BBC chose to do a miniseries with Pride and Prejudice so that all the characters could be kept intact. Not counting the ephemeral Mrs. Long who is often talked about and never seen. I so want to write a story about her nieces. Even though Mrs. Bennet calls her a selfish, hypocritical woman of whom she had no opinion.
With that in mind, I try to bring up in my brain other movies based on books where they left out secondary characters. Because I know it had to have happened. Of course, the original Jurassic Park book killed off Jeff Goldblum’s character, Ian Malcolm, but the movie let him survive. I, for one, was very much in favor of this, especially given the sequels he enlivened. Writer Michael Crichton kept that change in his sequel books.
Movies, it says here, are in such a different medium than books that there have to be changes. Sometimes, the movie is better than the book, for instance, The Bookshop. I agree that there are important ways that books are different from movies. Plus, directors and screenwriters are fond of changing the characters in the original stories. The best example is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The monster would not be recognized by his creator in the first movie version. (I think I would like the book Forrest Gump more than I ever did the movie.) And don’t even get me started on Sherlock Holmes.
Are there characters in your writing that you expect to be let out of the movie version? Hmm. I think there are a lot who will be axed in my second Regency Romance, Regency Banquet: Entree, Pure Captivation. My heroine princess comes with almost a court full of secondary characters. In the third book, almost but not quite ready for publication, there are subplots that might not make it into a movie. But as we have more time to explore characters in a book, I think they are fine where they are.
Writing a screenplay based on a movie is almost as hard as writing original work. If the author insists on being involved, it could be impossible. Remember, when someone asks about the movie rights to your book, there’s a chance the film will still not ever be made. Hollywood is crazy. Just keep writing and keep your characters important.
PS: Happy Valentine’s Day!
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.