< Back to all posts
  • What they see is what you get

    This week, I read "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn. I saw the movie last year, and I enjoyed it. It was dark and twisty in a way that reminded me of one of my favorite novels - Wuthering Heights. (Not that the stories themselves have anything in common...Just that you go, "Wow, that's ... messed up.")

    As best as I can remember, the movie and book are very similar. I think there was at least one character omitted from the movie, and there were a few scenes in the book that I didn't recognize from the movie, but all the major points were the same.

    But I liked the book way better. Why is that? Surely, movies are a nice shortcut. Spend two to three hours on a movie, and call it good, or spend several days on the book. Plus, having seen the movie, that's pretty much what I pictured in my head, so my imagination wasn't unique. But what made it superior, and what I think might be the downfall of all movie adaptations, is that what the characters were thinking was spelled out.

    On screen, the character tilts their head and scrunches their nose. In the book, another character sees this and thinks, "they always scrunch their nose when they're about to tell a lie." There's so much more information that can be learned from the page because film doesn't have the time or perhaps the ability to convey it.

    I think it's easier to feel sorry for movie Nick Dunne than his book counterpart. Sure, he's confused as to what's happening in the first half of the book, but by the end, it's easier to come to the conclusion that he's brought this on himself and he and Amy really are two insane peas in a pod.

    Same goes for the Game of Thrones books versus their tv adaptation. While the first few seasons seem (to the best of my recollection) on point with the books, to me it's far more interesting to see their thoughts. There's only so much Tyrion Lannister can say out loud without being executed - but he can think a lot more.

    Of course, whether to let a reader into the character's head is a narrative choice. The author can leave the reader out as much as if they were watching a screen. But that's another discussion for another day.