For as long as movies have been made, they have often been inspired by books. But, more often than might be expected, there is a whole world of books written following the release of a movie, inspired by its plot and characters.
You may be surprised to learn that the likes of ET, Home Alone, Alien, and Back to the Future all have their own books, and more recently Disney’s Coco, and Iron Man have novelisations that sit in the top 50 of Goodreads’ ‘Best Movie Novelisations’ (although this is out of only 98 books so take from that what you will). Although they may seem a relic of a time when movies couldn’t be re-watched endlessly on Netflix, these novels continue to be written. So, why does novelisation continue to occur today and what value do they add to the movie or TV show?
the limitations of a 2-3 hours’ time slot often do not do justice to the potential of the world that is depicted
Certain genres are well equipped to expand into further media after the release of a movie. The scope of the science-fiction and fantasy genres often demand to be further explored. Although these movies create a unique world separate from our own, the limitations of a 2-3 hours’ time slot often do not do justice to the potential of the world that is depicted. Whether for monetary gain, as the success of the franchise has already been proven, or simply for dedicated fans who crave more insight into these worlds, novelisations of the biggest sci-fi and fantasy worlds have proven to be very successful.
Star Wars has numerous adaptations into written and graphic novels. The world of Star Wars is exceptionally expansive, spreading across multiple planets, with many different species that are simply a long, long time ago, and in a galaxy far, far away to us. Therefore, there are endless possibilities of stories that could be explored. The Star Wars: Legends series was named so after Lucasfilm removed canon status of literature written prior to Disney’s acquisition of their studio. It covers all 6 of the original trilogy and prequels, as well as junior versions, and largely approaches the plot from a slightly different angle than was portrayed on screen.
Disney’s new generation of movies, games, and TV series within the Star Wars worlds, sparked further novelisations
There are also adaptations which play with writing style, with William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy and expanded works from the prequels and sequels using the orthography of Shakespeare to depict the stories in poetic script form. Disney’s new generation of movies, games, and TV series within the Star Wars worlds, sparked further novelisations. These have covered the plot of the newest movies, splitting The Force Awakens into separate lines of Rey’s Story and Finn’s Story, and expanded on the spin-off stories of Solo and Rogue One. The world continues to extend, and the opportunities to write about it are endless.
Similarly, the world of Doctor Who, already extremely large due to its 38 seasons of its main series, various spinoffs, and depictions of many types of creatures and planets, has also had many successful novelisations. There are works which pick up on ideas for films or episodes that never made it to screen, some which replicate iconic episodes, or some that take on the likeness of prominent writers, with the poetic collection Now We Are Six Hundred being inspired by the great A.A. Milne.
Perhaps less successfully, the novelisation of Stephen Spielberg’s ET takes an absurd angle on the sexuality of the eponymous alien, suggesting he has an obsession with Elliott’s mother. This is perhaps telling of where it should be asked not whether a novelisation could happen, but rather whether it should. These sci-fi worlds are asking to be experienced and expanded, to explore more non-existent planets and to carry its readers further across these imaginary landscapes whose screen depictions are already so vivid in their minds.
These communities of fans have generated a whole world of fan-written fiction based on movies and television
Aside from genre, the appeal of novelisations rely on the demand from viewers and fans of the movie or TV show. Rather infamously, the 50 Shades of Grey series has said to have come about from fanfiction published online inspired by the Twilight series, which both went on to be their own movies. These communities of fans have generated a whole world of fan-written fiction based on movies and television. Most often though, these works do not expand outside of their online communities and are not officially publishable due to the ownership of ideas in the original works. But the nature of obsession with these worlds indicates where the success of novelisations draws from.
Although the originality of these works is debatable, the skill and creativity in matching styles and stories from the minds of other writers and actors is a class of its own. Ultimately, no idea is ever truly original, and the writers of these novels are taking on a harder task than many: they must satisfy mass audiences who have their own specific ideas about the aftermaths of a certain movie or TV show. Novelisations will be successful for a long as these communities of fans exist, and the imaginary worlds of great movies and TV shows will continue to expand their horizons as far as the writer’s mind can take them.
Feature image courtesy of Karim Ghantous via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.
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