Readers at the Movies: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Out StarsThis weekend my daughter and I went to see the movie The Fault in Our Stars. I laughed, I cried…she laughed and cried. I thought the movie was moving and poetic. I loved the strength and courage of the main characters and their journey to love, even while knowing theirs would not be a story of happily ever after. I left the theatre feeling satisfied with the storytelling, the actors, and the soundtrack. When I expressed all these things to my daughter she responded with the strength and conviction of all her eleven years of wisdom, “Really? I was pretty disappointed. The book was better.”

And there you have it. I did not read the book. I do not know what I’m missing.

I’ve been in her shoes before. There are very few films that have lived up to books I’ve read. Certainly no movie has ever exceeded a book from my perspective, although there are a few that got it pretty darn close.

This got me to thinking…why is it a book is nearly always better than the movie?

What is Left on the Cutting Room Floor?

As readers, we want every moment or detail between our beloved characters that elicited an emotion to make it onto the screen. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned to my hubs after watching a movie and said, “What you don’t know from the movie about this relationship is…” Often times, having not read the book, he didn’t find the moment a missing piece to the story he’d just watched on the screen. It’s just that I’m a reader and I want it ALL!

movie theatreThe Importance of Interpretation

When a reader watches a film, it is important to keep in mind that this is the director’s vision of the story. We have to accept this as part of the film journey and leave our expectations at the door. What might be important to me as a reader (“In this moment the character is thinking of X”) may not be important to the story the director wants to tell. When reading we are able to interpret, assume, and envision a moment to our liking. On screen, the actions and visuals are absolute.

My Cast!

This leads to the importance of casting. Remember the uproar with the Fifty Shade of Grey casting? TMZ reported the last minute change with the same intensity CNN reports breaking news. Why? Because the fans felt as if they had a say in the casting of their book. I can only imagine the insanity that will ensue when the movie is released.

So, what is it is about a movie like The Fault in Our Stars or The Hunger Games that makes us cry foul loud and hard when the movie doesn’t meet our expectations? For the record, I loved the casting and movie versions of both, but I will forever cry foul to the makers of the Harry Potter movies for all but KILLING the Harry/Ginny relationship. Not due to casting, but due to several omissions of moments in the movies. And why? What is it that makes readers feel as if we have a stake in all this? I blame the brilliance of the author. By creating a rich world filled with characters we love, we feel a sense of intimacy and then ownership for that world.

Books Belong to the Readers! 

I don’t want to spoil the The Fault in Our Stars for anyone who has yet to read the book or see the film, but the story line actually touches upon this idea. The main characters, Hazel and Augustus, grow intimately attached to characters within a novel they have read. These characters, and those around them, are on a similar journey as Hazel, Augustus and their families. So much so that they refuse to believe the story just ends. They are compelled to seek answers…what happens next? And as writers, isn’t that what we want our readers to ask?

A bit of research tells me John Green has been bombarded with these same questions about The Fault in Our Stars. I beyond love his response:

“I promise you: I DON’T KNOW. I have access to the exact same text that you do. I do not have access to any information outside of that text, because then it would just be me speculating about what might happen, and my speculations are no more valuable or authoritative than anyone else’s. Books belong to their readers! Own it! Make it yours!”

 

Dedicated readers do feel a sense of ownership to a book we love. It is this love of a book that takes us to the movie expecting a repeat of the profound experience created on the page. But it cannot. It is a different medium, and when it falls short, we rage and why? Because that is OUR book, and we want the world to see our version of our book.

What books turned into movies have met the grade for you as a reader? Which ones have fallen short? Have you ever felt this sort of ownership over a book that was made into a TV show or film? If so, which ones and why?

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Lesson Learned From Frozen: Write To Your Own Trend

Sisters, Elsa and Anna

Sisters, Elsa and Anna

Last week I stepped outside the 5% of the US population who has not seen the movie Frozen. I had been wanting the see the movie for a long time. With my background in Musical Theatre, this type of movie is within my personal category of MUST SEE.  Unfortunately, my daughter initially saw the movie without me, and she fell into the minority of children in the United States who didn’t feel the need to see it again. We live busy lives, and at a certain point I realized I was destined to see the movie once it came out on DVD. Even then, I BEGGED her to watch the movie with me, and when begging didn’t work, I moved into the phase of motherhood I’m really good at. I tortured her with the promise I would not stop singing Let It Go until she agreed to watch the movie with me.  As a former professional singer, the threat initially fell flat. I sang the song a few times through while doing chores around the house, and while maybe my singing proved a distraction from her current focus (reading The Fault In Our Stars) I transitioned into singing Let It Go BADLY, changing as many words as possible to capture her attention.  When I started to incorporate some truly horrific dance choreography into the performance, she put the book down and raced me to the door to rent the DVD. Even an 11 yr. old has her breaking point!

I was expecting a typical Disney love story movie musical in Frozen. Perhaps my love of another Disney movie, Brave which I blogged about years ago (Brave: Tackling the Complex Mother/Daughter Relationship) should have told me to expect much more than your typical Boy-Girl story. Yes, there is an adorable dancing and singing snowman, and while love and relationships between a man and a woman is within the story, it resides within a subplot. The main focus of the story is the love found within a family, in this instance, the strong bond of love and friendship between two sisters.

The focus of family in this movie sensation caused me to take a look at my own writing and the writing industry in general. When it comes to market trends, we are told not to write to trends but to write ahead of a trend. Study the industry and figure out what might be the next big thing. If you want to jump on the werewolf, shape-shifter craze, you better have written it already because writing it while that market is hot, only means by the time you’re ready to bring your story to the world, you will have missed the trend. So what is an author who is trying to write a break out novel in the industry supposed to do? One of our Femmes, Michele Mannon, wrote ahead of a trend. She had the idea to write Hot Alpha Male MMA stories before it really became a trend and took hold in the market. This stroke of brilliance it has paid off in spades for Michele. Another Femme, Diana Quincy, paved her own trail or trend within the popular Historical Romance genre with her Accidental Peers series. Both wrote from their hearts stories they were destined to tell with unique hooks. So what then about a contemporary writer like me who writes humorous, sexy, family driven contemporaries? I’m not about to write a shape-shifting story in the hopes of making a market splash. It just isn’t in me. My writing time is so limited, I have to write something this is true to my soul otherwise the time spent on a project will feel empty and the story will fall flat.

The explosion of the movie Frozen with the focus of true love and sacrifice residing within the family structure has given me hope. This has reminded me that, regardless of current or past market trends, the trend or the importance of Family within our society will never die out. I will continue to write from my heart and produce funny, family centric stories. My next romance series will focus on more than one family and how all their lives intersect and impact one another within a community. I’m planning to explore more complex family relationships while keeping the focus on one couple’s messy journey to a happily ever after. I started to explore this a bit in the third installment of my Brothers of Audubon Springs series, The Right Chord, which releases on August 6th. Could this be the next trend? I don’t know, but I do know I’m excited to tell the stories within this new series set. As a writer, motivation and excitement for a project are half the battle.

I’m wondering if anyone else was surprise by the twist in the focus of Frozen? Also, what do you believe will be the next big trend and what current trends in the writing, movie, or television industries have captured your attention or surprised you?

Happy reading and writing!

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