Monthly Archives: May 2014

5 Worst Book to Movie Adaptations


“The book was better.”

It’s almost impossible to avoid hearing or uttering that phrase after seeing a film that’s been adapted from a novel.

And it’s true (of course it is) that Hollywood often fails to capture the magic of beloved literature. With that being said, not all adaptations are terrible. Most recently, The Hunger Games movie franchise has been praised for its accuracy.

At the same time, there are often more bad movie adaptations than good, especially when it comes to classics. Here are five of the worst book to movie adaptations.

5. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)


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Douglas Adams’ spirited sci-fi romp falls flat when shoehorned into this gimmicky film version. The movie lacks most of the wit and charm of the book it’s derived from. The sole redeeming quality is Martin Freeman, who makes his American motion picture debut in this film.

4. The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)


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I’m sure Alexandre Dumas would despise this adaptation. For one thing, a handful of characters have been entirely removed from the narrative. Moreover, the director even had the gall to change the original ending. Not even young Henry Cavill can save this one.

3. The Scarlet Letter (1995)


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I don’t know who thought Demi Moore and Gary Oldman would look good onscreen together, but… no. While Gary Oldman does a fine job of playing Dimmesdale, poor Demi Moore gets the shaft when it comes to the poorly-penned script. Most of the novel’s complexity is abandoned in favor of playing up sensuality and a lighter, happier ending. High school students beware: you’re better off reading the book.

2. Great Expectations (1998)


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Who reads a Dickens’ classic and thinks, “yeah, this book is dying for a modern-day rechristening?” Alfonso Cuaron, that’s who. This film functions like a weird mishmash of Titanic, Moulin Rouge, and a teensy bit of Dickens. Why did this happen?

1. Gulliver’s Travels (2010)

Jack Black stars in Gulliver's Travels.

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I don’t think I could think of a worse film adaptation than this one if I tried. The film lacks most of what makes the original narrative great. On top of that, it’s just not funny. It tries too hard to be.

I’m sure there are worse movie adaptations than these out there, but I have yet to experience them.

What do you think of these adaptations? What other bad ones can you think of?

P.S. In Conversation with–Bob Gale, Co-Writer of Back to the Future and Selections from Pixar’s 22 Rules for Storytelling.


Book Review: The Successful Novelist by David Morrell


David Morrell is a genius.

There’s no getting around that fact. After reading this book, I am more than convinced that this man has more writing talent in his pinky than I do in my whole body.

I digress.

When I mentioned on Twitter that Stephen King’s On Writing is one of the most influential books about writing that I have ever read, someone suggested that I look up David Morrell’s book The Successful Novelist: A Lifetime of Lessons about Writing and Publishing.

I’m delighted I did.

This book, like King’s, provides a veritable treasure trove of knowledge regarding the craft and the business of writing. However, Morrell takes a much more practical approach, giving out advice for you to use in your daily writing sessions. King’s book is largely memoir with some practical bits sprinkled in. On the whole, Morrell seems so much more approachable.

The Successful Novelist is suitable for writers of all skill levels. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been writing for ages, this book is for you.

It’s also short, succinct, and easy to read and understand. What more could you want?

Go out and pick up your copy today. This book will change your life.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? What book would you like to see me review next?

P.S. Book Review: Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown.

5 Great Gifts for Readers and Writers


I’ve got a birthday coming up (June 17), and when I was in school, my summer birthday bummed me out. Now that I’m older it doesn’t make much of a difference. If anything, it’s better now because people tend to be less busy in the summer, which means that there’s more time to celebrate.

If you’re like me and you have a birthday this summer, people have probably already started asking you what you’d like to receive. Can’t think of anything? I’ve got you covered. Here are five great gifts for readers and writers–most of which are fairly cheap.

1. Vintage Book iDock, Anthropologie, $68

Book iDock from Anthropologie

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2. Light Man, J-List, $16.80


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3. Large Floating Book Shelf, Shop Plasticland, $18


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4. iPhone Book Case, Etsy, $9.99


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5. Olde Book Pillow Classics, ThinkGeek, $17.99


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Hopefully this post has given you some ideas for presents you can give to or receive from your friends and loved ones. Full disclosure: I just ordered the Sherlock Holmes book pillow and I’m way too excited about it.

What do you think of these gifts? What others do you think I should add to this list?

P.S. How to Write a Thank You Note.

3 Types of Scenes to Cut from Your WIP

Upturned Silhouetted Profile Against a Blue-Green Background

It never ceases to amaze me how much bad writing there is in the world.

Truly, when you think about it, you can most likely remember more poorly-written books you’ve read than well-written ones. Why is that? Bad prose tends to stick in our memory. Think of it as a kind of gruesome car accident–you know you shouldn’t watch it, but you can’t look away.

Bad writing is almost predictable in its awfulness. That is, there are several contributing factors to a poorly-written piece that can be seen almost across the board.

If you want to avoid bad writing, you need to avoid the factors that contribute to bad writing. One way you can do that is by cutting these scenes.

1. Mirror Scenes

Nothing in prose irritates me more than getting character description from a reflection. Most of the time, these scenes consist of a character peering into the nearest reflective surface–whether it be a mirror or a lake or even a spoon–and commenting on his or her appearance as though noticing it for the first time. How many times do you look in the mirror and look yourself over from head to toe, noting your “caramel-colored eyes” or “luscious red curls.” Probably never. Honestly,there are better ways to reveal a character’s appearance.

2. Dream Sequences

Oh, goodness. Dream sequences, for me, are right up there with mirror scenes. The only difference is that, unlike a mirror scene, a well-written dream sequence can serve the plot. For example, in Veronica Roth’s Divergent, dreams form an integral part of the story. Unfortunately not all dream sequences are created equal. I’ve seen authors slip in dreams seemingly only for the sake of making word count. Don’t do that. If you’re going to use a dream, make sure it’s relevant to what’s going in in your story.

3. Commonplace Exchanges

I once read a novel in which a whole chapter was spent chronicling a trip to the grocery store. I wish I were kidding. If your scene or chapter doesn’t reveal character or move the plot along, you’re better off without it. No one wants to watch your protagonist picking out produce. We do that enough in our own lives as it is.

These are just three types of scenes that can be removed for the sake of strengthening your piece. I know there are others, but these cover most of the big-picture problems.

What types of scenes do you cut from your work? Do you agree with these three?

P.S. The Art (Not Science) of Chapter BreaksAvoiding Genre Fixation, From Daily Writing Tips: 34 Writing Tips That Will Make You a Better Writer, and Said Isn’t Dead.

Author Spotlight: Haruki Murakami


This post is a feature I’ve been wanting to write for some time. I discovered Murakami and his work about a year and a half ago, via the Selected Shorts podcast, where I first heard his short story “The Iceman” read aloud. Shortly after, I plunged headfirst into the bizarre, engrossing world of 1Q84 and haven’t been the same since.

Prevalent motifs throughout Murakami’s extensive body of work include cats, dreams and hallucinations, magical realism, androgyny, ears, aliens, fate, and coincidences (that are usually so much more than simple coincidences). Most if not all of these motifs can be seen in his longest work, 1Q84. The title clearly pays homage to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, but the story is not the same.

As much as I’d like to write a review on 1Q84, that’s another post for another day. We’re here to talk about some of Murakami’s other work. He is considered one of the foremost authorities on modern literary fiction, having published several different short stories, novels, and nonfiction essays. Some of his most notable works include “The Iceman,” After Dark, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, and Norwegian Wood (the movie adaptation for which is currently on Netflix). His prose is captivating, magical, and sure to win you over from the very first page.

If you’ve never read Murakami, check out “The Iceman.” And be sure to let me know what you think about it!

Have you read Murakami? What do you think of him?

P.S. Book Review: Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews, Book Review: Oleanders in Alaska by Matt Thompson, Book Review: Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown, and Book Review: Morning Glory by Allison Blanchard.

Time Limit versus Word Count

Typewriter Sitting in the Middle of a Field

As writers, daily writing is absolutely vital to our success as artists.

I’ve discussed the merits and strategies of daily writing before. There’s not much sense doing it again.

Instead, I’m going to share my new outlook on daily writing with you: focus on writing for a set period of time each day rather than a specific word count.

Why? Because it works.

I used to believe in making word count every day. The number varied from 500 to 2000 words, depending on my project at the time, and I made sure to reach that word count no matter what happened each day.

Or at least, I tried to.

The problem with writing to reach a certain word count is that life happens. For people like Stephen King, whose entire lives revolve around and are dedicated to the craft of writing, it’s easy to sit down and pound out 2000 words or more each day. For the common man or woman, however, this feat is far from easy.

I now write for half an hour each and every day. I don’t necessarily have to add anything new to my manuscript, but that time must be spent doing something related to my current project. For example, if I’m busy, I might spend this half an hour working on my characters or doing some research. That way, I’m still getting work done, but I’m not killing myself over it. I’m not stressing out about reaching some number.

Time limits are flexible. Time limits understand. Time limits help you focus without losing your mind; allowing you to write without taking away the fun of writing.

If you’re feeling overworked, why not drop the word count? Try setting a timer for thirty minutes instead.

What do you think about writing for a set time? What are your thoughts on reaching word count?

P.S. The Kurosawa Guide to Daily Writing, The Importance of Daily Writing, Finding Time to Write, and The Beginner’s Guide to Daily Writing.

11 Steps to Crafting Characters

Woman Writing on Laptop

I hate character profiles.

Don’t get me wrong; I understand their value, I just don’t feel like I have the time to fill out every single detail laid out on the page. Is everything relevant to what I’m working on? I don’t think so.

If you’re anything like me, you wish there were some way to create realistic characters without going overboard. If you’d rather not wax poetic about your protagonist’s shoe size or most embarrassing nightmares, all is not lost.

Want to make your characters stand out from the page? All you have to do is follow these eleven simple steps.

  1. What role will this character play? Protagonist, antagonist, love interest, what?
  2. What is their name? Nickname?
  3. Where are they from?
  4. Gender?
  5. Age?
  6. What’s their background? Family history, wealth, significant life events?
  7. Race/ethnicity?
  8. Sexuality?
  9. Personality? Good and bad qualities?
  10. Likes and dislikes?
  11. Goals/hopes and fears?

You don’t need a complicated spreadsheet to make a three-dimensional character. Ask yourself these questions, answer them, and you should be good to go.

What tips and advice do you have for creating believable characters? What do you think of these tips?

P.S. 4 “A”s of Characterization, How to Develop Stronger Characters, and Where to Find Character Names.