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Why, In Most Cases, Is The Book Always Better Than The Movie (Or Show?)

In today's world, most people cannot find the time to read. As to why that is is a whole different topic, and one that I will probably delve into in a future blog, but the fact remains that most of us, especially in America, simply do not read literature and do not value the knowledge and information, or the entertainment that is present on page. In today's world, dominated by internet articles and information, vlogging, and television, the human mind has evolved to prefer their news AND their entertainment to be shown to them, read to them, acted out for them, so it requires less work on our brains to process and imagine it for ourselves. Couple this with our super busy capitalist-driven lives and you'll start to understand why books and literature are, sadly, a dying breed.

This is why many books are adapted to television or for the big screen. This is why, for many authors, the "big break" of their career is when their stories are picked up by production companies or networks. It's the ultimate goal, the "I finally made it" moment for artists who, thousands of years ago, would have been reaching the masses as soon as their pen hit paper. Or quill hit parchment, for that matter.

You probably don't even realize it but you'll most certainly be surprised to know that many famous movies and TV shows were actually books first - it's such a commonplace thing in the industry nowadays, in fact, that credits to the original author are seldom given. The literary industry and show business are two fields that seemingly, without even trying, bleed in to each other. Here's some examples:

TV Show: Game of Thrones - Book Series: A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin

Movie: Twilight - Book Series: The Twilight Series, by Stephenie Meyer

Movie: Harry Potter - Book Series: Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling

Movie: Lord of the Rings - Book Series: Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

TV Show: The Walking Dead - Comic: The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman

TV Show: The 100 - Book Series: The 100, by Kass Morgan

TV Show: The Magicians - Book Series: The Magicians, by Lev Grossman

TV Show: American Gods - Book: American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

TV Show: Dexter - Book Series: Darkly Dreaming Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay

TV Show: True Blood - Book Series: The Southern Vampire Mysteries, by Charlaine Harris

I could literally go on and on. The list is, basically, endless.

Which brings me to the purpose of this blog: why is it that, in most cases, the book is always better than the show/movie? You've heard it many times before from people who had the privilege of reading and watching the same story. Maybe, if you were that person, you've said it many times before too. It's almost ALWAYS true - rarely has the adaptation for screen, because that's what it is, an "adaptation," been better than the book.

Here's why: or, at least, here's MY theory why. While I'm certainly not an expert on the matter, I've watched a good number of TV shows and movies that I first discovered and read before the screen version was even a thought. I've also watched a good number that I discovered THROUGH the screen adaptation, like many others, and backtracked to read the book after the fact to see the differences in both versions.

When you read a book, there is a certain organic, imaginative process that occurs. It is a process that is completely missing from watching the show or movie. When you read the words on a page, (hopefully the RIGHT words, structured in the RIGHT order, as per a skilled writer, that will allow you to vividly picture a scene) your mind begins to create the picture that it thinks fits those words. You begin to build your own understanding of the scene, which may or may not be entirely different than how the writer actually envisioned it when he wrote it. It also may or may not be entirely different than how other readers envision it. You'll create a picture of how this character looks, and how that character sounds, and how this place looks, and how that place smells and feels. What you're left with when you're done is a scene that suits your liking perfectly. It's exactly how you want it to be. Its your understanding of the words. It fits you like a glove, perfectly rendered because it was done, subliminally, by your mind.

When you watch the show, or the movie, you are seeing SOMEONE ELSE'S, or a team of someone else's, version of that exact same process. So, in essence, it isn't as perfect as the rendition you created when you read it because the imagination wasn't created by you, it was created by the producer, or the director, or whoever. So maybe they saw Harry Potter as a 6 foot muscular dude with clean, slicked back hair, but you saw him as the awkward skinny boy with bangs covering the scar on his forehead. Maybe that's a bad example because, admittedly, the Warner Bros. version of Harry Potter was spot on, but I think you catch my drift. Maybe they saw Hogwarts as a grey majestic castle in a foggy, magical forest, but you saw it somehow more elegant, in a colorful meadow. And then, all of a sudden, when one of these details is off, or a number of them are off, you start to think, "that's not how it was in the book." Or, "I don't know, that's not how I envisioned him to look," etc, etc. You will usually always prefer your own version, your own brand of the story.

A perfect example of this would be the character Yara Greyjoy, in Game of Thrones.


First off, her name was Asha in the books - the producers changed it for the screen adaptation to avoid confusion with the earlier character, the wildling Osha. Name changes are confusing, maddening, and very annoying. To me at least, lol.

Anyways, the way I envisioned her in the book was as a beautiful, gorgeous, extremely good looking girl. This is on account of the fact that Theon fell in love with her almost immediately upon seeing her. Throughout their initial meeting, he repeatedly was drawn to her for some unknown reason, and the way George R.R. Martin wrote it made it seem as if she was just a stunningly beautiful girl.

In the show, her portrayal was a bit different. Still a good looking girl, but she was portrayed as much more rugged, even tomboy-ish. In some instances, she seemed to have bigger balls than Theon himself. Quite a different character than what I envisioned in the book and, because of this, I suddenly found myself very bored with her plot arc in the show, thinking it didn't do the books justice.

Sound familiar?

When you read a book, you can travel anywhere, see anything, be anyone, feel everything, without moving an inch. If you don't read, you should seriously consider doing so. It is an unimaginable experience, extremely magical, and undeniably addicting and enjoyable. Books, literature, and the written word have been around for eons. Much longer than television and the internet, and despite their competition from the new kid on the block, they're not going anywhere. There is a reason for their unbreakable track record, for their inability to disappear.

Find it for yourself. Thank me later.

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