Guest Post, Darrin Doyle: The Dirty Truth About Film Adaptation

When I was in 7th grade I read Stephen King’s The Shining and it terrified me in the best possible ways. A few years later I watched Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of the novel, and it also scared the bejeezus out of me. While I probably re-read the novel again at some point (I can’t remember), I certainly re-watched the Kubrick movie numerous times in the ensuing years, reveling in the spooky music, the awesome sets, and of course Jack Nicholson’s insanely funny and disturbing performance.

Years later I heard that Stephen King himself was no fan of the Kubrick film. Apparently he found Nicholson’s scenery chewing over-the-top, and he thought the movie didn’t ground the Jack Torrence character as well as the novel did.

Even this film, which is considered one of the most successful book-to-movie adaptations – well, ever – failed to live up to the novel, at least in the author’s mind.

However, King remains in the minority. Most people agree that The Shining is one of the finest horror movies of all time. My belief is that the reason The Shining is a successful movie is because while adapting the novel, Kubrick did what any filmmaker should do: as odd as it may sound, he made a movie, not a book.

In other words, he changed the story so that it translated to the screen. He didn’t try to keep everything the same as it was in the novel. He substituted the topiary animals with a hedge maze. He changed the ending (no spoilers here). He largely skipped the backstory of Jack Torrence and let the Overlook Hotel become the star.

GodardThese days whenever a novel (or series) gets made into a big Hollywood film, I hear people mainly discussing whether or not the movie included everything from the book(s). It’s as if the movie is reduced to a visual checklist, a dumping ground for the events of the novel, and as long as it contains every major scene and keeps all of the characters, etc., then it is deemed a success. Rarely is a movie adaptation judged by its artistic merit. And if it strays from the books (such as adding female elf Tauriel to The Hobbit) then look out: the fan base may be sorely disappointed. This seems to be the tack that Stephen King took toward The Shining.

The problem is this: no film can be a novel. Plain and simple, writing and filmmaking are vastly different mediums, employing vastly different tools to tell their stories. If for instance a person wanted to adapt a painting into a dance, then quite a few creative alterations would be needed. Everyone knows that a painting isn’t a dance, but for some reason there’s a popular belief that a movie is essentially the same thing as a book. All a filmmaker needs to do is to put what’s on the page onto the screen and – voila! – a novel in pictures.

Unfortunately it’s not that simple. And unfortunately, as a teacher of fiction writing, I see all too often the effects of the belief that a movie (or a TV show, or a graphic novel) is the same thing as a novel.

At times I feel like one of those old-fashioned dolls with the pullstring on its back. Again and again during our workshops the string gets pulled and I end up saying, “Tell us what’s going on inside the character’s head. Use point-of-view to tell the story. Use summary. Use your tools.”

That’s because so often these days my students are writing a movie. By this I mean that they assume that whatever they (the writer) see in their minds, we (the reader) will see: the settings, the physical descriptions of their characters, the body language and gestures. On the page, however, the writers provide scant detail, focusing instead on dialogue. The dialogue becomes the main (and often sole) vehicle for showing character motive, backstory, conflict – for giving us the plot. These students, I’m fairly certain, are falling into this trap because it’s how movies do it; it’s what TV does.

Movies and TV, however, use dialogue because they have no other choice. Well, not no choice, but different choices. Visual media depends heavily on dialogue. However, visual media also lets us see the faces of the characters; we see them fidget with their napkins and stare distractedly into space when they’re in business meetings; we see the landscapes that the characters live in.

As writers we must create these landscapes from scratch. Our primary goal is to paint a picture, to immerse the reader in the world we want them to inhabit. And for this, we need words. Our words are our cameras; we need to use them.

Most importantly, fiction has the ability to do something that visual media cannot: It can read minds. It can inhabit a character’s psyche fully. It can probe her memories, her regrets, her desires, her insecurities. It can perform this trick moment-by-moment and line-by-line, putting the readers inside the characters, letting us inhabit them. This is a trick no movie or TV show can pull off, and it’s the reason so many adaptations of novels are ultimately unsatisfying.

As a storyteller, it’s great to draw influences from wherever you can – I’m as big of a movie buff as anyone out there. But if you want to be a writer, then the stories you should be watching . . . are books.

Meet the Review Crew: Corinne Randall

Each week we feature one of our many talented interns here at Superstition Review.

Corinne Randall is a Poetry Editor for Superstition Review for the second time. She is a junior at Arizona State University studying Creative Writing with a concentration in Poetry for her major and Communication for her minor. She is a native of Framingham, Massachusetts…an old, historical town about 20 minutes from Boston. After graduating from ASU, Corinne hopes to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing-Poetry at ASU or NYU.

Corinne has been writing for a good portion of her schooling career. It became apparent in 8th grade that she had a talent for writing poetry when she had a poem published in Celebrate! Young Poets Speak Out. Along with writing poetry, Corinne loves reading and watching movies. She has a love for the arts. If she had to read one book for the rest of her life it would be J.D. Salinger’s famous novel Catcher in the Rye. She fell in love with it when she was required to read it her sophomore year in high school, and has read it twice since.

Corinne became interested in Superstition Review while looking for internships her sophomore year in college. She had the opportunity to look at past issues of SR and decided that the wonderful works of all different kinds of art the magazine featured was something she wanted to be a part of. She believes that having to opportunity to read the poetry authors send in for submissions has enhanced her ability to write her own poetry. She has enjoyed the two semesters she has worked for the magazine and hopes to continue as an intern for the rest of her time at ASU.

Being Flynn

Each week we feature one of out many talented interns here at Superstition Review. This week’s piece comes from Fiction Editor Stephanie De La Rosa.

Nick Flynn is an American author known for his poetry and plays. His memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City won a PEN award in 2004. Superstition Review had the honor of interviewing Flynn in Spring 2009, in Issue 5. Flynn shared a few of his thoughts on the writing style he used in Another Bullshit Night, and mentioned, “I wrote my way toward a sense of compassion for my father, which was perhaps the only way I could go, since I began with very little.”

Superstition Review is glad to share with our readers that Flynn’s memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, is soon to be released as a major motion film directed by Paul Weitz, and starring Robert de Niro and Paul Dano. The synopsis for the movie begins, “Can one life story have two authors?”  We hope to see the answer to this question upon the film’s release, March 2, 2012.

For more information, to watch the trailer, and to read more about the film, visit

http://focusfeatures.com/being_flynn.

You can also check out Nick Flynn’s Website and his interview with Superstition Review.

Here at SR, we wish Nick Flynn continued success and look forward to viewing his memoir’s film adaptation, Being Flynn.

 

Intern Highlight: Marie Lazaro

Interview Editor Marie Lazaro is a senior at Arizona State University. She will be graduating in December from the School of Letters and Sciences with a degree in Literature: Writing and Film. Upon graduating, she plans on broadening her horizons with hopes of writing for TV and movies as well as continuing to find work within the industry of magazines. Originally from New Jersey, she plans on heading back east to New York City to experience the lifestyle and find possible job opportunities before ultimately returning back to Arizona. This is her first semester with Superstition Review.

In the link below, Marie shares some of her experience with online literary magazines.

Marie Lazaro


Meet the Interns: Frederick Raehl

Fiction Editor Frederick “Brandon” Raehl is a senior at ASU completing concurrent degrees in Psychology and Literature, Writing, and Film. As well as working in healthcare as a CT Technologist, he plays music, writes screenplays, and develops black and white photographs. After completing his honors thesis in psychology titled, The Effect of Workload on Academic Performance, his time is now devoted towards writing. Though his current ambitions outside of college are unclear, he intends on using writing in any endeavor he decides to pursue. His favorite all-time book is The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.

1. What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?

I am one of the Fiction Editors for Superstition Review. My responsibilities include reviewing work from fiction writers for our upcoming issue. Some of my duties include preparing response emails, reading and voting on what to publish,  and completing weekly tasks and reports. I need to check Blackboard frequently and keep the instructor informed of my progress.

2. Why did you decide to get involved with Superstition Review?

One of my goals of being an undergraduate student is to obtain a diverse and challenging education. Being a part of the Superstition Review allows me to pursue this goal. I love writing, and I’m curious about what goes into the process of  publishing. I enjoy new experiences and new challenges.

3. How do you like to spend your free time?

With the little free time that I have, I enjoy pleasure reading, playing guitar and drums, going to movies, journaling, and playing with my dogs. Most of my time goes towards school and work. I first went to x-ray school, which I do for a living, then decided to go  back to obtain my undergraduate.

4. What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?

I think interview and content editing would be interesting, as well as web design.

5. Describe one of your favorite literary work

I would have to say that Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles is still my favorite  book. I first read it in 7th grade and came back to it when I first started college. It feels like every time I read it I discover something else that I love about it. I’ve read many books in my life, but none have ever replaced my long time favorite.

6. What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp. No, I’m not an alcoholic, but I really enjoy reading about personal triumphs over adversity. It’s a great read, if anyone is looking for something to pick up.

7. Creatively, what are you currently working on?

I’m beginning to write a screenplay for my capstone course. I’m always writing new music and journaling as well.

8. What inspires you?

I’m inspired by authenticity. When I see something that I know is real and not just something crafted to make money, I’m inspired. I believe that one should be brave enough to create something that comes from within, regardless of what the world will feel about it. When people do what they know is right in their heart instead of what may be right in society’s eyes, I am inspired. Finally, and the most simple, I’m inspired by decency. I love it when I see people working together and treating each other in a civil manner.

9. What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of obtaining a college education with honors. It may seem miniscule to some, but going to college has challenged and changed me in many ways. I believe that if I hadn’t decided to go to ASU after x-ray school, my life would not be as hopeful as it is now. Many people think I’m crazy to go back to school when I already have a decent-paying job. The pay is not the problem. I feel like I’m meant to do something  more with my life than what I’m doing now. I don’t know exactly what that is right now, but going to college has allowed me to investigate this. And I know that my decision to obtain a college degree will help me live a happier life.

10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see my life moving forward. I will not be in the career I’m in now. I know this for certain. What I don’t know is what I will be doing. I know that I want a life that allows me to be creative while also benefiting society. I have several ideas that I will investigate. Being successful is important, but more so I would like to find myself in a career that is in tune with my values and I feel passionately about. Who knows where I’ll end up, but I will never stop looking.

Meet the Interns: Tabitha Gutierrez, Advertising

tabithagutierrez_0Tabitha Gutierrez is a senior majoring in Business and English Creative Writing.

Superstition Review: What do you do for SR?

Tabitha Gutierrez: At SR, I am in charge of advertising and getting the word about SR out to the public. I write press releases/newsletter providing updates about upcoming readings, submission periods, etc. as well as pursue ways of gaining advertising.

SR: How did you hear about or get involved with Superstition Review?

TG: I heard about Superstition Review through an email from the English department regarding internship possibilities. I selected SR as my internship because I felt like a student run magazine was new and interesting.

SR: What is your favorite section of SR? Why?

TG: I especially enjoy the artwork. Being an English major, I read multiple works from various authors daily. However, I have always loved art and find that the art included in SR makes a nice change.

SR: Who is your dream contributor to the journal? Talk about him/her.

TG: My dream contributor would be Tim Burton. Although I am obsessed with his movies, I absolutely love his artwork that he does. He has albums filled with art for movies and characters that are truly unique. Also, I think that any stories submitted would be different and fun.

SR: What job, other than your own, would you like to try out in the journal?

TG: I think that it would be interesting to work with art selection. I would love to view and compare different works of art and discuss how others view it as well.

SR: What are you most excited for in the upcoming issue?

TG: I am most excited to see the results of readership. I feel like an increase would reflect a contribution that I did in advertising.

SR: What was the first book you remember falling in love with and what made it so special?

TG: When I was younger, I really loved the Diary of Anne Frank. Although sad, I felt like it was the perfect combination of history, youth, nonfiction, relatability, etc.

SR: What are you currently reading?

TG: I cannot put the final book of Twilight down. I already read the series but loved the last book that I had to read it again. I know it is a sensation but I find a real art to the way it is written.

SR: What are some of your favorite websites to waste time on or distract you from homework?

TG: I usually get distracted by YouTube. Not matter your mood, you can always find something to fit your desire. If I am in a funny mood, hilarious pet videos always keep your mood up. Or, if I am in an artsy mood watching people sing and try to get there name out there can be inspiring.

SR: What would be your dream class to take at ASU? What would the title be and what would it cover?

TG: My dream course at ASU would be a Next Step class. I think that faculty focus so much on the transition into college, getting classes, and your overall freshman year, but barely focus on your Senior year. I wish there was a class that explained the best way of breaking into career fields, what to really expect, realistic salaries, etc. How are we supposed to base degrees and majors on something so unfamiliar?

Meet the Interns: Dustin Diehl, Nonfiction Editor

dustinDustin Diehl is a Senior at Arizona State University majoring in English Literature and minoring in Religious Studies. He is also pursuing a LGBT Certificate.

Superstition Review: What do you do for SR?

Dustin Diehl: I solicit work from nonfiction authors to be considered for publication. I then read through submissions (both solicited and submitted) and decide which ones I think should be included. Together, with Liz, we decide which ones to include, then send out rejection/acceptance e-mails.

SR: How did you hear about or get involved with Superstition Review?

DD: Trish is my Honors Thesis advisor and asked if I would like to participate…I said yes!

SR: What is your favorite section of SR? Why?

DD: I really enjoy fiction; however, I’ve been earning a deeper appreciation for nonfiction…seeing how people can take ordinary circumstances (or even not-so-ordinary circumstances) and convey them in a creative and readable form is fascinating to me.

SR: Who is your dream contributor to the journal? Talk about him/her.

DD: I would love for Michael Stackpole to contribute a short fiction story. I love his Star Wars novels and he’s a local writer!

SR: What job, other than your own, would you like to try out in the journal?

DD: I think it would be fun to be a part of the marketing team. I work for an online ad agency, so getting to apply my job skills to something fun like SR would be pretty cool.

SR: What are you most excited for in the upcoming issue?

DD: I’m really excited to read the submitted work…it’s always fun to read people’s work, especially when you find a diamond in the rough!

SR: What was the first book you remember falling in love with and what made it so special?

DD: The first book I fell in love with was The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare. I loved how it deftly juxtaposed religious history, political history and fiction into a very readable and timeless story. In high school, I adapted the book into a play script and would still love to produce a stage version of the book.

SR: What are you currently reading?

DD: Currently reading the Star Wars: X-Wing series by Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston. Reading should be fun, and these books are fun!

SR: What are some of your favorite websites to waste time on or distract you from homework?

DD: I’m a huge movie buff, so I’m constantly on WorstPreviews.com, a movie news blog.  I’m also an avid Star Wars fan, so I enjoy TheForce.net as well.

SR: Do you write? Tell us about a project you’re working on.

I do write; usually fiction, but I’ve found nonfiction to be very satisfying as well. I’m working on a collection of creative nonfiction essays for my Honors Thesis as well as a LGBT-themed modern fantasy novel.