Why good stories don’t always turn into good films

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending the cinema twice in order to see two very different kinds of film. The first film was “The Theory of Everything” and the second was the “Second Best Great Marigold Hotel.”

I was wary of watching The Theory of Everything having watching The Imitation Game, which was so loosely attached to historical fact as to be around 90% fiction. It was an enjoyable film but a very poor representation of the life it was supposed to be based on. Alan Turing’s life warranted a so much better film. With this in mind, I went to see TTOE. It is true to say that I understand very little science and know very little of the life of Stephen Hawking – he is disabled, has a voice box and wrote a difficult book. The film was based on the book and, in my mind, did not appear to deviate from realism. I understand from the reviews that it was a fairly good representation of the great man’s life and the book his first wife wrote about. I had also toyed with watching Testament of Youth but I read the book as a teenager and saw the television adaptation so I decided that a fictionalised version of the book was not for me.

It is hard to capture the spirit of a long book in a short film which relies on image rather than the printed word. However, I cannot find any excuse for just making up events, changing the truth about events or even changing the location of events. If the story stands up, the film should be as representative of it as possible. If not, then the screenwriters etc should come up with their own ideas.

On a windy Saturday afternoon, I spent a couple of hours watching Marigold. The first film was funny though I got really tired of the Indian hotel owner character. It was a joke which went on far too long. The same joke was running in the sequel. By the time we got to the second half I had pretty much given up watching a lot of it. What on earth were those wonderful actors doing in that rubbish? I haven’t read the original book but friends who have tell me it is wonderful. Having seen the films, though, I don’t feel inclined to read the book, which is sad.

I always hope that a film inspires viewers to read a book not avoid it.


Is this the best book about writing ever?

“Write” by Phil Daoust (Guardian Books) could possibly be the best book about writing ever, in my opinion.

What is so good about the book? Well, it is not just a prescriptive “How To ….” book nor is it an analysis of a particular writing method. The book is actually a collection of insights by different authors on the subject of writing, very often of writing their own books.

Writers learn their craft from reading the works of other writers, reading about other writers and discussing their work with other writers. This wonderful book (available in both hardback and Kindle versions) gives insights into how successful writers write and, in particular, how they wrote their most famous books. The selections are short and very much to the point but give an interesting insight into the writing process.

The “How to …” and other prescriptive guide are helpful to the beginning writer in that they give some pointers as to how to go on the writing journey. Reading about the journey successful writers have been on is, in my view, more helpful because they often have encountered and dealt with an issue the struggling writer is dealing with.

As Byatt’s contribution on the writing of “Possession” was most interesting as I once heard her talk about writing the novel. I was also interested in Zoe Heller’s issues in finding the right voice for “Notes on a Scandal” as this is something many writers have to consider. Getting the voice and perspective right is the catalyst for moving the writing forward.

I am finding many useful ideas in this book and it is very enlightening to read about how successful novels and stories have come about.