Authors Answer 35 – Movie Tie-In Novels

You know how everyone says that the book is better than the movie? Or you should read the book before you read the movie? What if it’s the other way around, and someone wrote a novel based on the movie? Those are some interesting books (take that as a good or bad interesting, however you like it).

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 35: How do you feel about movie novelisations?

Allen Tiffany

Movies and novels are such different mediums. This is something that too often gets lost in this discussion. But to the question: I’ve read very few novels based on movies. As I recall, I read a few when I was a kid, and they seemed flat and boring. If memory serves, they were more like a description of the movie than anything else.

From the other direction, like all of us, I’ve read a number of books that I later saw as movies. More often than not, I thought the movie inferior, but that is not always the case. I’ll probably get ravaged for saying this, but I struggled with The Lord of the Rings. I gave up a third of the way into The Two Towers. In contrast, I thought the (11 hour!) movie presentation was brilliant, bringing it all to life for me. I’m sure other people had opposite reactions, which is OK. We all respond to different things. So I just think you have to keep in mind that books and movies are two entirely different things.

Caren Rich

If we’re talking about a novel written from a movie, I’ve never read one and they don’t really interest me.  I’d rather see the movie. Now, I have read a few comics written from movies.  That was entertaining. Of course when it comes to movies made from books, I prefer the book.

D. T. Nova

I haven’t read many, but from what I have the general rule is that I don’t like them much. The one good thing I can say is that sometimes they do include scenes or ideas that were cut from the movie.

One exception is Fantastic Voyage. The novelization was written by Isaac Asimov, and it fixed a lot of scientific errors and at least one plot hole that were in the movie.

Elizabeth Rhodes

Oops. Something missing here. Stay tuned for her answer.

Eric Wood

I’m all for movie novelizations. Though I’ve only read one – Star Wars, Phantom Menace by Terry Brooks. As a big Star Wars fan and Terry Brooks fan I HAD to read this one. I have always thought the books better than the movies because they can provide more background information and build stronger characters. I believe this to be true of novelizations as well.

Gregory S. Close

I found that the novelizations of the Star Wars prequel movies helped me come to terms with my disappointments.  The movies will always evoke a conflicted response from me – a great overarching narrative framed in flawed storytelling. The novels were engaging and helped me to reconnect with the films.

H. Anthe Davis

The only movie novelization I can remember reading is the Labyrinth one, and unfortunately Labyrinth is one of my favorite movies.  The added perspective from Sarah didn’t outweigh not having David Bowie around AT ALL.  So in that regard, I can’t say that I enjoy them.  I’m sure someone can spin greater depths into a movie’s storyline, but I think it generally works better to condense (go from book to movie) than to go the other way, because it might just get watered down.

Jean Davis

I can’t say as I’ve run across that before. I really can’t comment on it.

Linda G. Hill

To be honest, I had to google “move novelisation” to see what it meant. I’m still not completely sure, but it sounds like a novel written from a movie rather than a film adaptation of a novel. I’ve never tried reading such a thing and I’m not sure I’d want to.

Paul B. Spence

I generally have despised them, and yet, I still read them sometimes. Usually used copies bought cheap.

If any of my novels ever make to film, people can read the originals. I also don’t plan to write any screenplays, so my work will never be novelized by anyone else.

Overall, I don’t feel that they affect me in any way.

S. R. Carrillo

I don’t read them. I don’t understand the point of them. If there’s more to add to the movie, why wasn’t that element included in the original screenplay? Although, by simple virtue of books to add to shelves, I prolly would read one just to see what it was like. I much prefer books adapted into movies, not the other way around.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I thought about this question for a good, long time, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve never read any movie novelizations. I’ve read plenty of books that were turned into movies (or TV shows), but I can’t think of a single novel that I’ve read for which the movie came first.

That said, I have nothing against novelizations in particular, and I’d even be likely to write one if the mood struck me. In fact, one of my side projects is a novelization of a classic video game, Final Fantasy III/VI, and it’s super fun to write, so I just might decide to move on to a movie novelization in the future.

Jay Dee Archer

One year, I asked for the latest Star Trek movie for Christmas. Then when Christmas came around, I went to Canada, and opened my presents. And there it was, Star Trek: Nemesis…in book form. That’s right, my mom bought me the novelisation of Star Trek: Nemesis. I didn’t read it until this year (thank my huge backlog).

Out of all the books I’ve read, this was one of the oddest feeling books ever. I knew the story, as I’d seen the movie before. It was an exact copy of the movie.  However, it had the added dimension of being inside the characters’ minds. I knew what they were all thinking. But since it followed the movie exactly, there really wasn’t anything new. No anticipation, no suspense.

There probably are some good novelisations, but I haven’t read any. This was the only one I’ve read.

How about you?

Have you read any movie novelisations? What did you think? Any that are good? Let us know in the comments below.

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25 thoughts on “Authors Answer 35 – Movie Tie-In Novels”

  1. Reblogged this on C.K.Rich and commented:
    Authors Answer 35 is up. Today we talk about movie tie in novels. Yay or nay. This is 4th of July weekend, I hope y’all have a great weekend. I pray for the safety of all of our service men and women, at home and abroad.

  2. I read a book called “Tied In: The Business, History, and Craft of Media Tie-In Writing” by several authors. They explain the whole process of writing novelizations of movies and TV series as well as tie-in novels that use the characters and settings but are original works (different frrom fanfic in that these are licensed products). It’s quite an interesting business, and not quite as easy as it sounds.

    1. Convincing everyone that officially licensed tie-in novels aren’t the same as fanfic… Good luck with that. (I agree with you, but “There are Star Trek novels, so I can publish my Star Trek fanfics, ’cause it’s all the same thing” seems to be a fairly common argument in some circles.)

      I imagine writing about someone else’s characters and setting would be difficult to do well. Again using Star Trek tie-ins as an example… Some people may think that, with something so well-established, it would be easy for any decent writer to get it right, but I’ve seen a few Trek novels that were just BAD: characters acting very OUT-of-character, major changes to setting details, etc. (IN a few of the novels, characters make “universe by committee” jokes…) For a while, Paramount had a rule that authors of the novels couldn’t have any continuing characters of their own creation, which seriously annoyed me because that meant Diane Duane couldn’t include Jerry Friedman in any more of the novels she wrote. (Very minor character in a couple of early-ish Trek novels, but hey, a Chronicles of Amber fan aboard the starship Enterprise — of course I liked him.)

      1. I think “officially licensing” a tie-in or novelization is an attempt at quality control by the “owner” of the character, who doesn’t want any “damage” done by someone who isn’t going to write the character “right.” What they fail to realize, of course, is that the fans of a show or movie also see themselves as “owners” of the characters, and that, while technically they can’t use the intellectual property, they’re going to do it, anyway. And some of those who set pen to paper and write fan fiction do a much better job of understanding the characters and settings and develop better stories than the people who are “authorized” by the “owners” of the intellectual property. But, rules are rules, I guess…

        1. Well, of course people are going to do it anyway, so what’s the point of telling them not to? Better if we just get rid of the stupid rule that says they should respect an author’s desire to have a say in what’s done with whatever they write.

          (weekly sarcasm quota achieved)

        1. They couldn’t have any -recurring- characters. Make up some extra character not in the “official” stuff, sure… but that extra couldn’t be in any other Trek novels they wrote.

          1. That has changed with the Vanguard and Seeker series, set in the original series timelines, where David Mack, Kevin Dilmore and Dayton Ward have several created characters that continue throughout these mini-series of novels.

    2. Interesting. The only book I’ve read is really just a direct copy of the movie, so doesn’t seem very original. But I guess good ones may expand on the movie.

  3. Reblogged this on The War of Memory Project and commented:
    I’ve seen a lot more kids-level movie novelizations than I have adult ones. Our library has a few Avengers/other MCU novelizations for pre-teens, and I think all the Disney and Pixar movies get novelized to some degree. It probably works better for kids, to help them parse what exactly was going on in the movie….but I don’t know how much I like it for adults. It could lend more depth if the authors are allowed to fill in the gaps, but the one I read felt sort of hollow.

    1. No novel gets made into a movie without some of it being left out to make the rest fit into a mere two hours or so on-screen. That also means the amount of story in a movie isn’t enough to fill a novel, so the novelization feels hollow, as you noted.

  4. I think the first movie “novelization” I ever saw was the “storybook” version for The Empire Strikes Back (illustrated with stills from the movie, of course), which somehow made its way into the small collection of books kept at the back of my third-grade classroom.

    After that… As a young teenager, I read the novelizations of Gremlins and The Dark Crystal — both borrowed from friends at school — and eventually Star Wars (happens to be the first book I ever bought for myself, but THAT novelization is pretty much only worth getting if you need it for your collection or if you are fond of Alan Dean Foster’s sneezy-thesaurus writing style… Seriously, “predispossessing”? *shakes head*)

  5. I read the novelizations for the original Star Wars trilogy back when I was a kid, when the films were coming out. I found it a great service to have these because in those days there were no home videos, you saw the movie at the theater and that is all you got, unless it later was aired on television. Being able to relive the adventures of these beloved characters in book form was a delight, especially with adding Alan Dean Foster’s book and Brian Daley’s Han Solo novels to the mix.

    I too read Labyrinth years ago, wondering how much if any other insight it would give as I’m a big fan of the film. I’m glad I read it, but I agree that it doesn’t hold a candle to the movie.

    I think novelizations are fine, and there are some top-notch writers who do them which generates more interest in actually reading some. I haven’t read one for years, but I did pick up the novelization for Aliens recently, having read several good reviews of it.

    1. I have to wonder what Aliens is like. The movie’s full of suspense, so how does that translate to a novel? I’ve never read a horror novel, so I don’t know what that’s like.

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