How Does Stephen King Feel When Studios Change His Stories?
July 9, 2013 Leave a comment
When you’re a writer, one of the most challenging parts of the job is when people want to change your work. Whether you’re dealing with an editor, an agent or even a professor conducting a workshop in your latest creative writing class, those criticisms are hard to swallow. But what happens when you’re one of the most famous authors on the planet and a studio wants the creative license to tweak your story almost to the point of being unrecognizable? How do you cope?
I don’t think there’s a person in America who doesn’t know who Stephen King is. The prolific master of horror, his novels have not only been published and consumed by millions, but time after time those books have been turned into films, televisions shows and even musicals. (Yes, the novel Carrie received the Broadway treatment if you can believe that.) King’s faithful readers have come to realize, however, that just like when most books are brought to the screen, there will be changes made… for good or bad.
Still, as a writer myself, I couldn’t help but wonder how King felt when CBS brought the novel Under The Dome to television this summer. Was the author baffled when characters were slashed or combined? Did he cringe when characters’ jobs were changed? And was he horrified when some major scenes or themes were cut altogether? Not at all.
In a recent newsletter, King addressed all of those changes and said he “approved of them wholeheartedly.” Say what? Yes, you read that right. King fully supports the changes that Brian K. Vaughan and his team of writers made to the storyline because the television series is a different animal than the book. “There’s only one element of my novel that absolutely had to be the same in the novel and the show, and that’s the Dome itself,” King writes. Lots of other differences are there too, but King compares the book and the show to fraternal twins and notes that they “both started in the same creative womb.” Otherwise he let the network have free reign with the book.
Like I said earlier, it can be really hard for us writers to turn over creative control because our books and stories are like our children. We pour much of ourselves into these creative works, whether they are ever published or not. So I really loved King’s thought process when it came to relinquishing the reins to someone else.
King quoted novelist James M. Cain, author of masterpieces like The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity. King says that when a student reporter interviewed Cain and asked how he felt about Hollywood changing his stories, Cain told the young man, “The movies didn’t change them a bit, son,” he said, pointing to his books on a shelf. “They’re all right up there. Every word is the same as when I wrote them.” King says he feels the same way.
So whether you’re an avid reader or a writer that is ever lucky enough to sell a book that Hollywood wants to option, just remember the philosophy shared by Cain and King, then sit back and enjoy the ride. Who knows? The new version just might be as good as the first!