The Shack: When Your Favorite #Book Becomes a #Movie And Misses the Mark But Teaches a Valuable Lesson

Awhile ago I wrote about my writing observations from the novel, The Shack.  When I heard about the movie coming out, I got excited.  Not just because it was one of my favorites, but because it furthers my belief that dreams can come true.  So, my husband and I made a day of the movies, making sure to catch this film.

Like some book-to-movies, there are noticeable differences.  The plot is shortened, some characters don’t make the cut, or the storyline is tweaked.  Regardless, the significance of these alterations, for the better or worse, is up to the reader/viewer.

And so it saddens me

that The Shack didn’t pack the punch that I hoped. I read the novel with bated breath, never wanting to put it down.  I’ve read it twice and each time I finished in a couple of days.

With the movie, I found myself less engaged and bored rather than excited like the book.  So when the credits rolled, I sat in disbelief wondering how one of my favorite novels missed the mark on the big screen.

On the plus side, the movie closely followed the book.  That rarely happens.  The message of forgiveness and not judging others was rather clear, so it met that agenda. But where did things go left?  Was it the actors?  Or maybe the setting wasn’t as vibrant as the details in the book?  Could it be that I over-hyped the movie in my head?  I don’t know. Could be all, some, or none of the above.

Here’s the positive spin on this experience so my $7.25 didn’t go to waste. Whether writing a novel or creating a movie, there are expectations.  The greatest of these, in my opinion, is to engage and entertain the reader or viewer – something to hook and maintain. It’s like selling a car and giving great customer service and incentives.  A person is likely to return to the dealership when the experience is good or exceeds the expectations.

Given that The Shack held at number one on the New York Times Best Seller list for almost a year and a half, and had great success before ever hitting a publisher, the expectations of a movie would be just as great, right?  Of course it would.  Instead the book outshined the movie.  But should we really compare books to movies?  Are we setting ourselves up for disappointment?

On one hand, the comparison can be good.  When a book is successful, it makes it more likely for a movie or television show to see the light of day.  Even if it never goes to the big or little screen, that success helps build the author’s credibility – thus sell more future books.

On the other hand, if the movie or television show flops, it can look bad on the author even if he/she did not play a role in writing the script.  So is it worth taking the risk?

My takeaway from this experience, is that reader and viewer expectations matter a great deal.  Not just for entertainment purposes, but also for future growth (i.e. readership, etc.).  Before jumping in feet first to accept a movie deal, it’s best to weigh the benefits against the risks.  Asking questions like “will readers continue to follow me if the movie flops?” or “how can I give the reading audience that extra umph through a movie?”.

Sometimes the original author does not get the privilege to write the script, like in the case of this movie. That brings to mind the point, that the author, screenwriter, and director’s point of view and reference could be as different as the sun and the moon. Which is fine.  However, the author’s future potential may benefit or suffer because of it.

That makes me wonder whether it’s really worth a writer handing over a story he/she  created and nurtured to someone who may or may not have that same passion or vision. Maybe that’s another lesson to take from this. Don’t sell your masterpiece to just anyone. Hmmm!

Photo credit: Ian Sane Morning Mist via photopin (license)

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