Last week I took my daughter to see the movie HOME. We had seen the previews months ago and right away I recognized it as the film adaptation of the book THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY by Adam Rex that she and I had listened to about six months ago. I love when I can point out to her the movies that came from books she and I read together. She gets excited, and I dread the day when she might not care as much.
The previews looked hilarious, which was not surprising because there was a lot of humor in the book. The month the movie came out she requested that we listen to it again and we enjoyed it just as much the second time around.
There were lots of things I loved about the book. Even though it's about aliens and planets, the fantasy is light and there are so many current cultural references that even those of us who are not into fantastical stories can follow along. There was action and tender moments, and a lot of social issues were addressed in a subtle, yet memorable way. My absolute favorite thing about the book was that the protagonist was a mixed girl with curly hair. Although I don't recall the author stating that her hair was curly, I always imagined her hair like mine the moment I found out she was mixed. Curly haired, brown heroes are rare, so I was stoked that she was coming to the Big Screen.
The movie was funny, entertaining, and had the tenderness of the book. There were many references that only readers of the book would understand and my daughter and I kept pointing them out and smiling like we were in on a private joke. But, the plot was vastly different than the book.
I won't spoil the book or the movie by getting into the plot. But it made me wonder how the author feels about the changes. When I write a story, I put so much into it. I spend days, weeks, even years making it the best it can possibly be. There's research and emotion in every character, scene and story arc. In the process I grow to love it in a way that is intimate, like a family member I birthed. I have cried while writing scenes and I have smiled at the feelings my writing elicits in me. For the most part, I want to share my story with others in any way I can. This got me wondering how I would feel if I put so much into a book and then a film production team took bits and pieces and made it into their own story.
On the surface, one can think, Who cares as long as you're paid well for your idea? But, is money enough? Can it pacify the feeling that something I cared about so deeply for so long was sliced and diced into something entirely different? I'm not saying that's what happened to Adam Rex, or any other author whose novel was turned into a movie. Maybe he had a hand in all the deviations and it was an opportunity to showcase a story he had in his heart that happened to star the same characters as the published novel. Maybe it was a way to try different ideas that his editor had vetoed in the book version. I have no idea. I hope that is the case. But if it isn't, I left the theater wondering what price can we put on the art of our hearts, even if it means that it will appeal to greater masses than its original form? If I ever got to see my characters come to life, how much of my vision would I have to compromise to get there? If my story is no longer recognizable, can I still love it just as much?
I have no idea and am very far from having to face these questions. Luckily for me, many have faced this before me and if I'm lucky enough to go down the same path, I will definitely be calling for advice from those authors who paved the way before me.