Watching Water for Elephants – between book and movie

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Our weekend movie was Water for Elephants based on the book by Sara Gruen and starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Hal Holbrook and the wonderful Christoph Waltz.

My husband, usually a very tough critic, liked the movie. Our friends had a split decision. She didn’t like it much, but her husband did.

As the credits rolled and people were leaving, our friend talked about how she had read the book and the differences in the stories in print and on the screen. Only she had read the book, while the rest of us who didn’t read the book thought the on-screen story entertaining-though certainly not enough to stick with you after you left the theater.

We know the same story in written word verses on film can be vastly different because of the media in which they are presented. But last night’s discussion made me think more about story expectation.

Those of us who had not read the book did not know what to expect, and took the story on its face value — that being a simple story about a young man’s journey as he joined the circus.

Our friend expected more, something richer that the book conveyed.  For example, the symbolism of water in the book was missing in the movie. If if had been there, the movie might have been the better for it.

So as writers what does this mean for us?

To me, it is remembering our readers. Are we giving them something just on face value or something richer they will carry with them? It doesn’t matter if we are writing movies  or books. It is the story that counts. The emotion we convey.

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