Book Chicken or Movie Egg?

I read an amazing book last month.  It was Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.  I had watched the movie when it came out back in the spring.  I had hoped to read it before I saw the movie but the wait list for the library was too long. 
I have to say, it was overall, a great adaption.  The writers kept the same feel of the book, the majority of the scenes from the book, and the characters were pretty much unchanged.  Now of course there was some differences but it nothing was changed in a way that drastically different from the book.  
As a person who is writing a novel, I dream of the day when my book would be turned into a movie or TV show.  How much would I willing to sacrifice, what would I fight to keep?
Let’s talk mediums now.
A book and a movie are totally different things.  You have much more time in a book, room for much greater detail but, you are a slave to the reader’s attention span and imagination.  In a movie, you have very limited time, but you have the power of visuals.  You do all the work for the watcher.  No need for them to imagine what you described, it’s all laid out for the viewer in a visual sense.  A transition from book to movie or movie to book can never be equal.  They can NEVER match.  You’re talking vampires and bunnies here people.  Two totally different things that evoke different senses and feelings.
So this begs the question, why do people get so mad when the transition occurs not as they hoped?  
First, let’s go book chicken.  I’ll be honest, I don’t have a lot of experience of reading a book before it’s turned into a movie or TV series.  I usually read the book after the series or movie comes out.  But here’s what I’ve gathered from people.  When people read the book first, they develop ideas of how scenes look, how characters interact, etc.  This is their world with this story.  So when a movie version doesn’t quite match their vision, it’s a letdown.  Sometimes whole characters have been nixed, I can see how this would make some heads implode.  But this all goes back to the medium difference.  In water for elephants, one of the major characters was blended with the second major character.  I actually agreed with this decision.  The two main characters were almost the same person.  For time purposes, it made sense.  But like I said earlier, I read the book after the movie.  Was I already tainted by the movie?
Now let’s go movie egg.  One thing already sticks in my mind.  One, I saw Bladerunner for the first time this year.  It was an amazing life altering movie.  Then I heard about a graphic novel based on the book. A word for word adaption. I jumped at it.  I love comic books and graphic novels.  Could I have the best of both worlds?  Could I have my cake and eat it too?  No I could not.
It took me forever to read the damn graphic novel.  The art was top notch, but it was the words.  The words slowed everything down.  Phillip K Dick’s excellent world building didn’t work with an artist’s drawing.  It was too much spice in the soup.  Dick’s words were the visual so paired with even more visuals was overwhelming and repetitive.  I eventually gave up and just read the novel instead.  I’ll admit, it was an easier read after having seen the movie.  I already had visuals to go with the prose.  And of course, there were some differences from the movie. But it wasn’t mind imploding.  Again, a lot of differences were medium needed.   But it made me sad, I would have never read this novel without seeing Bladerunner first.     So to me at least, some of my reads are movie movie egg.
In the end I came to this conclusion.  Yes, the movie or TV series isn’t an exact copy of the book.  But let the book or movie be a different version.  An Alternate take.  Your own vision will always be your own, no one else’s.  It your secret alone.  Hollywood can never take that from you.  Besides, isn’t your own imagination the best vision of them all?
What are your thoughts on book chicken or movie egg?


  1. I agree. I think I always do that. Twilight is a great example. Not the setting so much as Edward and who was cast. He was completely different than I imagined. But once I got used to a different face, I grew to love the movies too.

  2. I find it especially frustrating when a book is turned into a movie and favorite scenes are changed or completely cut, but they spend twenty minutes on something pointless just to make the movie "action-y"…

  3. Annie Rice threw a fit when Tom Cruise was cast as Lestat in interview for a vampire. but he won her over with his performance.  I remember when Heath Ledger was cast as the joker.  As much as I loved heath, I thought he was completely wrong for the role.  He blew me away.  

  4. My version of the "book chicken" is Under The Tuscan Sun. I watched the movie before I read the book, but even then I already knew that the writers had "Hollywoodized" the story by eliminating the autobiographical elements of Frances Mayes' life and turning it into a romantic comedy.  Frankly, I still love the book more than the movie, but I now understand why (and how) the story got adapted that way for the film.

  5. LOVE this post. Funny thing is that I tweeted all week that reading THE HELP first, then watching the movie actually gave me a two-fer experience. I got two endings -both of which satisfied me. So you're right – it's all about the medium, and rarely can the book and movie be THE SAME. Great insight! And I agree that the "tension" readers feel when reading a book and then seeing the movie is exactly what you suggest: the fact that the reader's perceptions aren't the same as the producer's.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s