Monday, January 18, 2010

The Lovely Bones: Movie or Book?

Yesterday, after a very productive writing morning, I spent the day with my DD. DH is in Texas visiting his father, who is doing much better this week, and DD had requested to go to the movies.

After hashing out my plot and looking at all the restructuring and work remaining, I was all to eager to be her movie date. Oh, but she chose such a sad movie. THE LOVELY BONES. For those of you who may not know about this movie based on the book with the same title, it's about a 14 year old girl who is murdered and it's told from her point of view after she dies.

For any parent. this is a HARD movie to watch. For a writer, this is a story I wish I had written. Amazing first lines: My name is Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. 

I can't do the story justice. Buy the book by Alice Sebold, read it and go to the movie. To be honest, I haven't read the book (too painful and sad), but my daughter did. And she said the book was so much better only because the book could explore the complexity of the story, the people's lives, the girl's perspective more intensely and vividly than a movie.

I have raised a true reader. And I love discussing the differences between the books and movies based on them with her. Why directors and screenwriters make decisions to cut or compress stories so they can fit on the big screen. They are going for the overall theme and mood of the story, but they have to cut a lot to bring the story to life. On the other hand, they have the benefit of the visual, music scores and acting to bring the characters and the story to life.

Sometimes I wish I could add visual, real visual components and musical scores to my stories. But as an author, all I have is words. And the words I use must give the reader the sensation of being in the story and living in each scene.

How? I keep going back to the words of Maass: create sympathy and empathy for your characters. Bring them to life with strong conflict and let them face the conflict and win (if you're a commercial writer) by the end. Do it well. Hone your craft. After you get it plotted and polished to the best of your ability, read it with the mind of a movie director. Share the story with trusted CPs and beta readers. Make sure you have created a story that creates depth of feeling and emotion within the reader because the reader cares about the characters and what happens to them.

Some people might come away from the movie, THE LOVELY BONES, saying the movie didn't meet their expectations because they read the book. But I think Peter Jackson succeeded in meeting mine. Even better, his vision on the screen convinced me to face the pages in the book because he proved the beauty of the story outweighs the horror.


marthawarner said...

Yeah, this one makes me sad just thinking about it. I haven't screwed up my courage that far.

Some movies are like that for me. For example, P.S. I Love You was that way. If the trailers would have shown that for the tear jerker it was... I would not have watched it at 6 months pregnant. Yikes.

I think though that as a writer, I wish to put such an emotionally charged story on paper. We can all hope.

Christine said...

If you read Alice Sebold's bio, her own story is heart wrenching. That she shares the depth of her emotional journey through her writing is a gift. The movie was tough to watch. As a mom, with a teen, just fifteen years old, I ached for the family. One minute life is just "normal" with the every day pick up your room, absent teen responses, discussions about money, and in the next moment a monster robs them of that normal. All of them.

The story is wonderful. I am going to read the book, but I have to wait a bit. Heart's still tender from watching it on the screen.

KarenG said...

I'd like to see this movie. I read the book some time ago, and liked parts of it but not others. I might prefer the movie over the book, although it's usually the other way around for me.

Christine said...

Karen, my DD (15 and very mature) was worried at first when she saw the younger teens in the theater. There is a very violent rape scene and murder in the book, but they didn't show the depth of it. Yes, they danced around it, but Peter Jackson did a great job of conveying the depth of the violence without slamming our faces in it. We all knew, you know? But in one scene, Susie's OUTRAGE as depicted by the actress and the cinematography was portrayed in such a way, you felt her pain. He's a great director.

Gwen Hernandez said...

I've been avoiding sad books like that for a long time, but every once in a while I go for it and I'm usually glad.

I may just have to check this out.

Christine said...

Be warned, Gwen. Intense. My DD had a rough night two nights ago. Part of her angst was heightened by a real life event where one of her school mates was killed in a tragic accident at that same age. Lots of troubling thoughts went through her brain. *sigh* But so good. The story was amazing.