In the wake of Jordan-gate (I get royalties for coining that , right?), a discussion arose among a few peers of mine. It was brought up issues of film, or TV, adaptations of books. Many of my peers are well published authors; both traditional, and self-pub. An overwhelming sentiment was expressed in this conversation. Many–I mean many–of my lovely friends were completely adamant that they would be cautious to license their work (if anyone offered, that is) off to a production company. They shared the same feelings: fears that the screen-writes, or directors wouldn’t get it right.
While, I sympathize with the feeling of letting our paper-babies out into the world without training wheels, I do however disagree with the apprehension to do so.
The heart of the fear, from what I gathered, is that some one else won’t understand our vision, disrespect our interpretation (yes, I call it an interpretation) of our characters, or just won’t respect our material. I get it! I really do! Our writing is an extension of our identity–it will reflect badly on us, break our hearts, and deflate all the dreams we had when we scribed our tales.
Now, here is where I disagree: it isn’t your tale…not anymore. In my humble opinion, you let it loose. You took it out of your desk draw (hard drive?) and released it into the world. It is the reader’s story now.
The art of writing, in the end, is the art of communication. It is a sort of magic where I take ideas in my head and try to put it into other people’s heads. Sometimes we succeed at spinning these spells better than other times, but in the end that is what it is. Your released written word will be interpreted by others in countless ways–most of which won’t meet the original dream in your head.
As far as movie-makers go: I don’t make movies (or TV shows). I write stories. I’m a storyteller, and my medium is words. I don’t know the first thing about shots, camera angles, or what is most likely to be well received in a visual medium. I work in a two-dimensional space on a white page (often times in my nightgown on the couch), not a sound stage, or behind an art-board.
I had a few writer friends who said that if they did allow a production house to pick up their stuff, they’d want to have creative control over anything (and everything) from casting, wardrobe, and story-boarding. I take exception to this. Exception in that I would find it horridly annoying if a movie director stood over my shoulder while I wrote, telling me how to do my job. I would think it would be the same for a movie maker. That is their craft. They know how to do their craft with an expertise that trumps mine in that area. Like how I can punch out some speculative goodness of a caliber I don’t expect some one who devoted their life to another medium of art to quickly become an expert at.
I think I say all this to say that I do acknowledge that we, as writers, tie a lot of our identity into our work…but so do movie-makers, or any artist for that matter. Directing the self-identity of another artist is disrespectful to me. We should be supporting the visions of other artists. How do we feel when other don’t support our vision? Sad? Marginalized? Any adaptation of your work, is not your work, it belongs to some one else.
We tend to struggle with controlling impulses when we feel our sense of identity threatened. There would be a lot less heart attacks if we learn to let go. The movie/show/cartoon being adapted from your tale represents the identity of another person. Can we honor that?
I think spending time in aikido has really helped me to embrace the idea of a communal mindset. One man’s interpretation of any given technique, or movement, is worthy of acknowledgement, even if it doesn’t work for me personally. Any technique I think is mine is a good thing for me to practice, but is a perfect thing to be sent out, reworked, criticized, or expanded upon by another practitioner. I think this is how I see my writing, as well. It is mine as it sits on a sheet, and becomes another person’s as they read it, and yet another person’s as it is interpreted by another artist in their own medium. I guess this is another reason why I’m not 100% anti-fan-fiction. I think it can be a little creepy, and I don’t write it, but certainly wouldn’t get defensive if I found another person reworking my characters in their spare time–especially if they weren’t getting paid for it. (Now, illegal use of copyrights is something else altogether…I am all for sharing my art, but I must be paid…this is a job. I have a mortgage. But, that is a discussion for another post.)
I think there is something rather divine in the sharing of ideas, and the freedom to run with them…even if they do run them into a gutter according to our own understanding.