MFA Dissertation Module Guide – 2013

Following, please find the official module guide for the 2013 MFA Dissertation. This includes requirements, reading lists and an explanation of the dissertation for several forms (Poetry, prose, drama etc.).

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Adaptation

Dorin Rufer is in her second year of her Creative Writing MFA. She is an avid reader, writer, movie-goer and tea drinker. She is part of a podcast/blog adaptationpodcast.com about film adaptations and the original formats they are based on. She is also starting up her own blog: dogaru20.wordpress.com. Check her and her Chai Latte addiction out

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Ever feel that the films adapted of your favourite stories are just someone playing a joke on you? As if someone read the back summary of a book and then wrote their script based on that, rather than reading the book? We have all been there, but why does it happen? Someone put their heart down on the page and then some screen writer, director, producer, or something took that and tore it apart?

Let’s look into what goes into an adaptation? First, we all have to remember that words can always do more than pictures. There is a beautiful subtlety in well-done film, but it is still impossible to get all the detail one has put in their story onto the screen. Especially in the cases of budget and how wild the effects would need to be. The difference between a novel and screenplay is vast. Screenplays are written for the visual and auditory, driven by dialogue. Inner thoughts are always troublesome for an adaptation considering that voice-overs are hard to do well. As in Playwriting, a Screenplay page is a minute of screen time, where a novel, depending on the genre and age group, can be anywhere from 40,000 to, well, they can get really long. All the literary prose and background and descriptions have to be condensed and even sometimes watered down.

But what about the story itself? Because of these differences, most of the novel will be cut out. However, many people, including myself, say that the adaptation can be considered a success if the movie still gives the same general feeling, idea, theme, etc. The things one should consider if they are trying to adapt their book is as follows: 1) The pivotal scenes, 2) The seven or so most important characters, 3) The dialogue that fuels the plot.

However, with that said there are still questions that bother me about adaptations: why do they feel the need to change characters names? Whether it is the full or just the surname? I figure it is an attempt to try to separate the film from the original piece, especially when the film diverges from the original story, but is it necessary? Does it bother anyone else?

My biggest issue with it all is that in many cases I can see how a film could capitalise or enhance the story that people already know. In many cases, when an author overwrites slightly or puts things in that are repetitive or unnecessary, a film can pare that down into the best parts of the story. It isn’t easy, but it can be done.

The greatest aspect of stories as well as its greatest downfall is the investment its readers feel. We can’t help but feel attached to a really well written piece of work, and when someone messes with it, we feel hurt by those who didn’t do the work justice. Sometimes, we just have trouble separating ourselves while watching the film, but after all the work people put into the adaptation we do need to try to give them some credit; we don’t have to completely like the adaptation. Your opinion is your opinion and you are going to have it whether they like it or not, but we can take them all with a grain of salt.  (Except perhaps for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Seth Grahame-Smith, did you hate your own novel so much that you had to turn it into that action movie schlock? Be proud of your book, it is good!)

Most of the time it may be a case of “the book was better”! But at the same time, if you look back at the long catalogue of films, you may be surprised at how some of your favourite movies were originally books. Did you know that the film Pitch Perfect (2012) was based on a book?

Here is a website listing the 50 best book to movie adaptations… do you agree?

These are what are considered the worst adaptations.

And a fun one for those who hope to have a story of yours adapted in the future: Authors who have hated movie versions of their books.

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