Photo Credit: HBO
If you follow my Twitter feed, you know I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan. For my money, it’s one of the 10 best TV shows ever made.* That said, the past two seasons, as fun as they are, illustrate a common problem with the very best long running dramas television has to offer. Shows of this type are almost always improved when they’re based on source material. TV provides a visual medium that modern audiences demand, but books remain the best way to tell detailed stories.
GoT is based on the A Song of Ice and Fire series by author George R.R. Martin. Martin has written five of a planned seven books. Two seasons ago, the show surpassed his novels and had to strike out on its own, finishing Martin’s story with nothing more than his notes. The lack of Martin’s guiding prose is obvious. Episodes are more action packed but character development has suffered and plots are much less intricate or logical.
Screen Rant recently published an excellent article that details some of these gaps. This phenomenon isn’t unique. Another of my favorite shows, Dexter provides an equally obvious example. The crime series ran from 2006 to 2013 on Showtime and is based on a book by Jeff Lindsay. The first two seasons are excellent and completely hooked me but as the seasons wore on and moved further away from the source material, they got more and more far-fetched. By the final season, I basically watched out of spite. I hated what they’d done to the main characters and just wanted to know how they would end it. For the record, the ending was lousy.
Source material forms the basis of many other great TV shows. American Gods and Black Sails from Starz, and Walking Dead from AMC are a few more examples. Movies are no exception either. Blade Runner, The Godfather, Fight Club, L.A. Confidential, and The Shawshank Redemption are just a few of many great movies based on novels or short stories.
So what does all of this mean to long-suffering authors like me (and some of you) that are just trying to find an audience? It means even if there are less readers out there than we’d like, TV and film have tremendous reach and often look to prose for inspiration. Hollywood needs books so keep on writing.
* Hmm, I smell a new blog topic!