Adaptation, Part 3

Adaptation, Part 3

Continuing my thoughts about adapting books into movies…you can find Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

So now we come to my books.  I think, and most of the people who’ve read them also say, that they are very cinematic and would make good movies (or television, possibly).  But I don’t know if they’d translate word-for-word to the screen, especially the first book, Dream Student.

The first question that I think would have to be addressed in turning that book into a movie is, how to handle the point-of-view.  The book is told entirely from Sara’s first-person perspective.  We’re in her head the entire series. How to handle that in a movie?  Keep her perspective, maybe even have Sara narrating the story in voiceover?  There are plenty of movies that do that.

But there are also some specific story issues that pose difficulties.  For one thing, the identity of the killer.  In the book, Sara doesn’t make the connection between the man she’s seeing in her dreams and the professor she’s occasional seen on campus.  She’s simply unable to accept that someone she respects – a teacher! – could be committing the crimes she’s witnessing in his dreams, and reading about in the newspaper.  In the book, I think it works and is believable.  In a movie, where the audience sees everything, I think it might be a much tougher sell.  There are ways around it – Sara could simply never see his face in the dreams, for one thing.

There’s also her relationship with Brian.  In the book, there are no real impediments, but in a movie, viewers might expect there to be more difficulties before they find true love together.  I would resist that, because to me the story is Sara opening herself up to love, and learning to rely on Brian to help her get through the nightmares (and eventually catch the killer).

That gets to a more general point: what IS the story here?  To me, it’s Sara’s growing up.   The romance, the realization and acceptance of her ability to see dreams, and her pursuit of the killer, all of these threads are part of Sara’s maturation from a shy and sheltered college girl into a woman who can stand up for what she believes in, make adult choices and stand by them,  and do what’s necessary despite her fears.

Dream Doctor, and also Dream Child are more straightforward, and they’d both be easier to adapt than the first book.  I don’t really see any major issues with either book, honestly.  But when we get to Dream Family, I can imagine some problems.  I think it’s a fantastic story, and an important one – how does someone who’s been totally broken recover from that experience?

The problem is that, while in the book I think Sara’s experience in jail is traumatic enough (especially because we see it from her perspective) that her breakdown afterwards is believable.  But in a movie, what happens to her might not be enough for an audience to relate to how it affects her.  I would guess that the experience would have to be made worse – either longer, with Sara spending at least a weekend in jail, but probably longer than that.  Or, she would need to suffer more physically, possibly a serious injury.  I don”t really like those ideas, but considering the different medium of film and how audiences might view things, it might have to be done.

And these thoughts are just off the top of my head.  If I went through any of the books trying to figure out how to make it into a two-hour film, I imagine there would be a lot of cuts and changes to make things work in a visual, rather than written medium.

I hope I get the chance to find out how it all works, firsthand!

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