I guess this argument has been going on as long as filmmakers used books for their productions. Which is best, films or the medium that are based, books. In a way it's easy for us to say books. As writers and readers, that medium is the one we turn to first. Films can never be as good as books as someone else has made their imagination the source for the film.

The other day, I watched a film based, I say based loosely here, on one of my favourite children's series. The film of Artemis Fowl, I'd anticipated from the first time I'd picked up Eoin Colfer's brilliant book. After the first few chapters, I knew this could be a brilliant film. Yet how could Disney of all people get it so wrong? It's hard to think they could have produced the twaddle that was on the screen.

Ok, being charitable, it sort of followed the book, yet it failed to keep me amused like the book. There wasn't the depth to it. It was a triumph of CGI over story. Sometimes films can be a catalyst for getting children and adults to search out the book after seeing the film. I can't imagine this adaptation will have that effect. It will go down as the worst film adaptation since the Cirque de Freak film hit the cinemas. Another great children's author, Darren Shan, work being bastardised.

To be fair it's hard for a filmmaker to transfer the book to film. Books are written as books and films are screenplays. They are two completely different mediums. Authors put a lot into making the scenes come alive in your heads. Your imagination is pushed so we each have our own idea of the scenes in a book. Film makers use their imagination to bring the world to life. Sometimes it works, at others it doesn't.

I sat for ages after watching Artemis Fowl, my anger seething inside. That wonderful world that Eoin Colfer had created inside my head was laid in ruins. The memories of the book bruised and battered. Yet I knew I still had the books. No bad film can ever take away the hours of joy I had reading the series. They would always have a place in my heart and on my shelves. The film? Well one I will never watch again.

I know that book rights are sold without the author being involved. I always remember Darren Shan telling the tale of how the film version wasn't his vision. When they pass out of their creators hands, they are at the mercy of those who may not have the same imagination and enthusiasm for the project.

Are there any films that enhanced the book? I'm not talking the classics here. Romeo and Juliet, for example, was much more accessible on the screen than in its original form. The Harry Potter ones were OK, The Order of the Phoenix, even being possibly better than the travesty of the book. Field of Dreams and Moneyball were two that sprung to mind. Lord of the Rings series were both overblown as a book as they were on film.

I'll still carry on watching films based on books. I'm sure I'll come across one that will work in both mediums.

Now and then you see in the media or online a list of books that are must reads. It's usually the end of the year, looking back on the books released. Occasionally when the news is light, newspapers will print the list of books people should read. However, are they really useful, or just an exercise in futility?

Now before I start, maybe I should confess to making lists of my favourite books of all time, favourite books of the year, decade and sometimes even week. It's fun, isn't it? By writing it down, or even mentally placing books in a league table is built into my DNA. Is it really that essential? (YES)

The real kernel though is if we should take these lists as gospel and worry that we haven't read some books on others lists. That's when they become totally unuseful. Some list contain books that they rank high because others do, like Pride and Prejudice, Ulysses or the ilk. Books that are highly prized as being total works of literature. The ones you might read at school or hear discussed in lofty tomes.

Books are there to be enjoyed, they are entertainment, educational tools or information sources. You read them for those reasons. Most times you want the book to entertain, to take you away from problems you might be facing, and lift your spirits. By all means read those lengthy books that always appear high on the literary lists, but don't be disappointed with yourself if you don't.

So yes, lists are useful. If I argued otherwise then I'd be untrue to my psyche. BUT don't take them as books you should read. Read books you like for whatever you want. Make your own lists, publish them and let others follow your path. Lists are useful starting points, not the destination.

Reading other people's writing is so important to the writing process. It's one of the first tips I'd give a writer starting out. It really is the best way of picking up tips.

For a start you'll learn new vocabulary, new phrases that'll better populate your works. The choice of words is so important to make your story flow and not be a repetitive process. You'll discover different ways to write. Dan Brown and Charles Dickens are both authors who wrote for the mass market, yet their style is so different. Dickens wrote his stories as instalments, therefore there were lots of hooks to keep the reader buying the next magazine. Brown uses suspense to keep the story rolling.

Reading also opens new worlds up for you. Narnia, Middle Earth and Earthsea are all different. Beautifully crafted worlds that are inhabited by believable characters. Reading allows you to see how to construct your own world.

So a writer must read and read as widely as possible.

Brompton Sawdon

Brompton Sawdon is an aspiring writer who lives in the foothills of the Pennines in the UK. He has various works in progress at this moment of time and hopes to publish some of his stories in the near future.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram