An illustration of a milkshake on top of a book.

Loop Lit #3: From Page to Screen


Despite literally being the author of a books column, I’ve been feeling rather disinclined to read lately. It’s not entirely unjustified - we’re at the end of reading period now, and we’ve spent weeks on end immersed in schoolwork without the slightest gasp of relief. It’s no surprise that I’d rather watch videos than pick up a book right now. (Although, I do subscribe to a lot of BookTubers, so I’m not completely removed from the literary world.)

When I first started planning out what I was going to write for this column, I was cautious of veering too far into other mediums. It would be besides the point for me to write entire paragraphs about television in a column that’s supposed to be about reading, wouldn’t it? Not entirely - scripts and screenplays are written works too, so let’s talk about them.

One thing that’s always amazed me about movies and shows is how they incorporate the tiniest details, which I have been trying to accomplish in my own writing as of late. How do I put a look of incredulity into words or get a reader to picture the tiny shifts in body language that make a world of difference? Most importantly, how do I convey the emotions evoked by reaction images on Twitter?

I may not know the answers yet, but scriptwriters seem to have it down to a science. They ultimately decide what appears on the screen, even if we don’t pick up on the subtle details of an actor’s facial expression. And it’s those decisions that impact our experiences, particularly if a book is being adapted into a movie or show. 

The general consensus among people who like books is that books are better than adaptations, and in some cases that’s true. In other cases, I’ve felt the opposite. One of my favorite shows is Hannibal, and when I first began watching I found myself wanting to read the original series by Thomas Harris. I eventually got my hands on a digital version of Red Dragon (the prequel to Silence of the Lambs) and was bored out of my mind. To be fair, I was 12 at the time, but I don’t think my 19-year-old self would be particularly fond of it now, either. I was ultimately more compelled by the world Bryan Fuller had created than the one it was based on.

Sometimes, I think we forget that showrunners and filmmakers have artistic license until we’re slapped in the face with something we don’t like. Whether it’s for better or worse truly depends on the execution. Could you imagine if Mean Girls stayed true to the non-fiction book it was based on instead of taking the comedy route? In contrast, imagine if the Vampire Academy adaptation had taken itself as seriously as the original books.

Ultimately, I can’t pick a side in the books versus movies argument. Both of them are valid.

Now, if you don’t mind, I have a show to watch.