From author Larry Brooks on Storyfix:
In this series I’ve called out several ways, and several specific instances, in which The Hunger Games, the film, is different than the book upon which it is based. The author, Suzanne Collins, received a screenwriting credit (which may or may not mean anything in terms of who actually wrote the final shooting script, and it only very rarely signifies a collaboration), so lets assume she was in on this very deliberate departure.
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Here’s a truth nobody involved will admit to, out of respect to Suzanne Collins: the movie was changed not just to optimize it for the screen, but to make the story better.
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Suzanne Collins was no rookie when she penned this story. No matter how the filmmakers switched some things around, her decisions were stellar. But her experience, her craft — the very qualities that empowered her to write this great story –is precisely what played into her acceptance of the changes themselves.
The point: one mind alone, especially the mind of a newer writer, or an unpublished writer, rarely optimizes each and every creative decision that must be made in the course of writing a story. We nail some, we get by on others, a few we tank. The real problem — and the opportunity I’m putting in italics here — is when we unknowingly, or because of ignorance, haste or blinders that fit tighter than a muzzle, settle for the first organic idea we have.
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Why else would the filmmakers tell her story differently, even slightly so?
To make it better. To jack dramatic tension. To heighten stakes. To intensify reader empathy. To elevate thematic resonance.
Every change in the book-to-story evolution points directly to one or more of these underlying motivations. It’s all about story physics, the forces that make a story work… and those are always up for grabs.
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THG was told in rigid first person. This was Collins’ choice. We see nothing that transpires beyond the curtain of her hero’s awareness. Which limits the ability to fully understand the motives and Machiavellian cruelty of the folks who are pulling the strings of the Games themselves.
The more we understand that, the more emotion we’re likely to invest. This is what the filmmakers knew, and why they changed the story.
In the book we only get a historical overview from Katniss’s POV. We never meet President Snow or the head Gamekeeper. We never see the machinations of folks with crazy facial hair pulling levers that result in fires and parachute deliveries and digital hounds from hell (which, while in the book were representative of dead tributes, were simply generically terrifying in the film, which took great liberties in doing so, because they created new laws of physics that push the story into the realm of fantasy).
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Write your story. Let it rip. But then — either in the moment, or via another pass — ask yourself if your decisions, your story moments, are the best they can be. If what you’ve written, moment by moment, optimizes dramatic tension while forwarding exposition, both at the macro-story level and the sequence and scene level.
Do your scenes and sequences have their own tension and stakes? Are they compelling? Will your reader be right there in those moments?
Are you maximizing point of view? Does what happens behind the curtain enhance the story? How are you handling that… and backstory… and foreshadowing, all within the infinitesimal subtleties of your characterizations?
Have you asked… why will anyone care? What level of emotion am I plucking at… at any given moment? Can you make what you’ve written even better? You need to make that your highest priority at some point in the process, over and above moving forward.
Link to the rest at Storyfix