At Brandylane, we invite authors to submit manuscripts of almost all genres and featuring almost all subject matter. But we're especially interested in submissions that teach, promote, and encourage understanding, tolerance, peace, and social justice, as part of our publishing house's personal efforts to combat hate and injustice. When we review and consider a manuscript for publication—and during the editing process—we're especially sensitive to how an author treats issues of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, and other aspects of culture in their work. Manuscripts that are clearly offensive and can't be salvaged by a developmental edit are rejected outright. For those submissions that can be rescued by one of our skilled editors, we make recommendations for further development, clarification, cuts, or changes to word choice that can bring the manuscript in line with our mission. Historical fiction and memoirs can sometimes present an interesting dilemma, because these works speak to a time when language and social mores were different than they are today. We understand culture evolves and language is dynamic, so we do our best to consider the nuances and anachronisms that may be featured in manuscripts concerning the past. Ultimately, not every book we publish must meet our mission head-on—but all of our books must meet our high standards, and avoid giving a voice to narrowmindedness and inequity. We love to hear from readers and authors, so don't hesitate to write us and submit your own work! written by Robert Pruett, Publisher
Authors face two important questions when they complete a draft of a manuscript: who shall I engage to edit my work, and how can I evaluate an editor to assure I’m making a wise choice? Frequently, submitting authors tell us their manuscript has been professionally edited. In many cases, however, we discover that the editor is not a qualified professional but a good friend of the author who offered to help, and that the work is poorly executed. (Telling your potential publisher you edited your own work is also a bright red flag!) I discourage authors from engaging a friend who may be easy on you to edit your work. Becoming a book editor requires much more than loving books, reading voraciously, or majoring in English! Much like a lawyer practices law or a doctor practices medicine, professional editors practice editing, and I can assure you, one never perfects the art. Finding an editor you can work with cooperatively can be challenging, as can finding one with the right credentials who offers their skills for a reasonable cost. Be cautious, and don't settle. Look for an editor who has demonstrated a high level of skill in editing previously published work—as recognized by respected reviewers or publishers—and who is well versed in the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), the industry bible for book editors. Price is of course a big concern; depending on the condition and complexity of the manuscript, great editing can be expensive, but standard industry rates usually apply. I recommend avoiding editors who bill by the hour rather than by the word. Although engaging the services of a slower, meticulous editor can be a plus, the cost for a word rate is more predictable. At Brandylane, we follow industry standards and rates, and we always work hard to make the syntax sing while preserving what makes a book truly memorable: the author’s voice. written by Robert Pruett, Publisher
Maybe you’re an experienced writer. Maybe you’re giving it your first shot after years of being an avid reader. Maybe you’ve never touched a book in your life, but you sat straight up in bed one day with a great idea for a story. No matter who you are, you’ll likely find yourself in the position of having an idea for a story all ready to go in front of you, and yet feeling like you have nothing to write down—at least, not anything that feels like a book. What’s missing? Why the paradox? More often than not, it’s your plot. It may seem like a no-brainer. Every story needs plot, and every middle schooler has seen the plot pyramid diagram in their English class. Surely it can’t be that hard—and yet it is, even for writers who have been doing it for years! You’re not alone—plot can feel much harder to come by than concept or characters, especially for new writers. The problem arises from the fact that a story and a plot are two separate things entirely. It’s easy to come up with an idea for a story, because a story is just the retelling of a series of events. Anyone can think of one, and anyone can call their mom and tell them the beginning to end of what happened on the bus last week. Stories happen all the time in real life because real life doesn’t care about whether or not it has plot. Plot, on the other hand, is much more specific. It’s about the selection of detail, the order in which to do the telling, what to leave out, and how to make up a story in such a way that every element lives in a carefully balanced web of cause and effect, and where the whole story is driven by some force other than just the fact that it’s being told. Luckily, there are loads of tips and tricks that will either help you turn your idea into a story from scratch, or maybe just fix that little nagging feeling that something about your plot is just off. Don’t worry—we’ve all been there! Let’s see what we can do. Start with Conflict Conflict is the most essential element to plot. There are plenty of different kinds of conflict—whether your character is up against an antagonist, the environment, themselves, or some other force, the opposing wills of two separate entities are what create a story worth caring about. We all want our readers to root for our characters, and it should go without saying that this implies there needs to be something in the story acting against them. Nobody roots for a sports team standing on a field talking amongst themselves and kicking a ball around aimlessly. We root for a sports team that’s trying to win, and I use the word trying because for there to be a game at all, someone else has to be trying to keep them from winning. A plot is the same way. Here are some good questions to think about when trying to come up with or enhance your conflict: What does your character want that they don’t have? What is preventing them from getting it? Is it another person? Why do they want to stop your character? Is there something your character has to do before a certain point in time? What happens if they’re too slow? Is there someone or something they have to save from destruction? Who wants to destroy it and why? There are plenty of other prompts to get you thinking about conflict, too. The internet is your friend—no writer generates every single idea from scratch, and you should be doing research when you write; everyone needs inspiration! Sometimes you’ll find a certain type of conflict fits your form or genre well. (see Grant Snider’s expanded categories of conflict above.) A common theme you’ll come across when asking these questions and thinking about conflict is stakes. Stakes can be as much of a driving force as your character’s desires—in many cases, they’re even more essential. Sure, your character wants something. Maybe they want it more than anything, but what do they stand to lose if they don’t get it? Even worse (which is just writer code for “better”): what might they have to sacrifice in order to get it? And is it worth it? Can they do it? While goals and desires are good for making your character strive for something, it’s important to include stakes so that they don’t have the option of just giving up on their goal when the going gets tough. This is why we say conflict drives the plot. When the going gets tough, and the easiest option is for your characters to bow out and for you to end the story right there, what forces the characters to keep going? And remember: the best place to introduce conflict is right at the very beginning. The start of the conflict is called the inciting incident. A good inciting incident presents a problem that your character can’t just walk away from or decide to be a bystander to; it should force them to make a choice. A good piece of advice to remember when struggling with where to start your plot is to begin as close to the end, climax, and/or resolution as possible. Try working backwards! Getting the inciting incident right can be the key to establishing a great plot, as it requires you to answer two big questions: What is this story about? Where is this all going? You just solved the first one by laying down your conflict. Congrats! And if you want to start your story as close to the end as possible, that means deciding how the story is going to end, which is just as important so you don’t end up rambling endlessly about what your character feels like doing today, or worse, inventing frustrating minor conflicts with no end in sight. (This is the same type of slow poison responsible for the death of 15-season TV shows.) Cause and Effect Your inciting incident will also help you get started with another one of the essential, defining features of plot. If conflict drives your story, cause and effect hold it together. Conflict helps you decide what your scenes are going to be about, while cause and effect help you decide what those scenes will contain, how they’ll progress, and what order they’ll go in. Your inciting incident is already your first big “cause.” Then, you’ll need to decide not just what happens next, but why it should happen next according to your inciting incident. A good story is a chain reaction, and while of course it’s never taboo to include some scenes that are slower (the rise and fall of action is also important to a dynamic plot and a pleasant reading experience!) to establish worldbuilding or character development, scenes should usually be tied to the plot, triggered by the events before them, and necessary to the events after them. A good trick to use when planning is to start every scene description or summary with a “because” statement. For example: The inciting incident: Princess Leia Organa’s ship is intercepted by Darth Vader, who is trying to stop the rebels from using the plans to the Death Star to destroy it and defeat the Empire. (See how we know the conflict of this universe now, too?) Because Leia’s ship was intercepted, the Death Star plans are in jeopardy, so she hides them in a droid to and ejects them to safety along with a message to Obi-Wan Kenobi asking for his help. Because the droids were ejected, they end up in the hands of Luke Skywalker, who sees the message, but because of the importance of their mission, R2 escapes in search of Kenobi. Because R2 escapes, Luke has to go searching for him, and finds Kenobi himself. And of course, if you’ve seen Star Wars, you know the rest from here. Luke learns about his destiny and decides to set off on his journey to rescue Leia and bring the Death Star plans to the rebels. Ta da! Cause and effect. Getting a good cause and effect chain going can give you a sense of momentum as you plan, too, making the entire process much smoother. These suggestions are not the end-all be-all of plotting. Your story is as unique as you are as a writer and will always require some individual creativity. You know your work best! As challenging as plotting can be, it’s also one of the most rewarding parts of crafting your story, and once you’ve nailed it, it’s worth celebrating. Try setting yourself up for success by starting with a simple outline and build as you go—you may find plotting your novel is much less daunting than you thought. You’ve got this! Good luck, and happy plotting! written by Sophie Lanctot
As we find ourselves in the middle of a pandemic, more and more parents have found themselves becoming their children’s teachers. This may sound like a daunting task, but there are tools available to make this easier. One such tool is reading levels. Reading levels may not be a new concept to you, but they can be confusing. However, we are here to help break them down for you so you can be a pro. What even are reading levels? Many educators use reading levels to analyze the reading abilities of their students. Different reading level metrics can be used as guides to create or select reading materials for classes. Often, the reading materials that are assigned to a class will match the reading level assumed by that grade. Some students may be offered extra assistance to help them reach grade level reading. However, reading levels can be flexible. Not all English classes read on grade level. Many schools offer honors courses for students who read above grade level. There are many different ways to examine reading level, but three metrics are most often used in schools. These are Developmental Reading Level, Guided Reading Level, and Lexile. Developmental Reading Level This metric is based on skills such as accuracy, comprehension, and fluency. This is a number-based system that is used primarily for very early readers. The levels in this system start with A as the starting level for Kindergarten, then move to 2-80 for the rest of the grade levels. Developmental reading levels for books are easier to understand than other reading levels, as these levels are grouped by grade level. This level system can be used in both elementary and middle school. Guided Reading Level This metric, often used in elementary schools, is based on word knowledge, comprehension, and fluency. Books are sorted by a letter system, A—Z, with A being the easiest reading level and Z being the hardest. The popular system of guided reading is Scholastic. Their website has many resources to help understand more about Guided Reading. Lexile This reading metric is based on complexity and overall reader skill. It is a completely number-based system. The system assigns both books and readers numbers on a set of scales that correspond with each other. The scale starts at 200L and ends at 1700L+. This system doesn’t recommend reading levels according to grade, but resources are available that show what the recommended Lexile number is for each grade. Lexile is also the hardest metric to test at home. This level system is often used in middle and high schools, but it’s also used in some elementary schools. How to test reading level at home While it can be overwhelming to think about determining your child’s reading level on your own, there are many resources available to help . One way to find out your child’s reading level is to ask their teacher. The odds are good that your child’s school has already tested them or has plans to test them. If they have not come up with a plan to test, you can make a request to the counselor’s office. However, there are other ways to test without contacting the school. This option is best for Lexile reading levels. For guided reading levels, the best way to assess your child is the five-finger test. This test requires you to have a general understanding of your child’s reading ability. Instruct your child to read one page of a book and raise a finger every time they encounter a word they do not know. At the end of the page, if they have all five fingers up, try again with an easier book.If they have none raised, the book is too easy. This method can be a bit time-consuming, but the goal is to find a book that challenges your child but is still readable. Developmental reading level is the easiest to figure out. Since it is based on age, this can be tested by having a child read a chapter from a book in the highest-level group for the grade below their own. If they are able to understand the material, you can move to the next group and work from there. Lexile reading levels are easier to test with help from your child’s school. However, there are online resources that can help you get your child’s Lexile score. MacMillan Readers offers a version of the test. How to create a reading list at home Now that you have an understanding of reading levels, it's time to take the next step in helping your child’s reading develop further. Creating a reading list will give your child practice. Using a list already created by a teacher is a good start, but not all teachers offer reading lists. That is where your new knowledge comes in. It’s time to create a non-school assigned reading list for your developing reader. This isn’t a solo task; a good reading list involves the child in question. Work with them to create a list that won’t only challenge them, but also interest them. The best way to increase your child’s reading level is to get them reading. Help your child figure out genres that they love to read, or decide together to explore a variety of genres. Take a look at reading lists for grade levels from sites such as Barnes & Noble or Amazon to get ideas of books to add to your list. There are also resources such as Lexile Find-A-Book, Book Wizard, and Literacy Leveler App that can help you check the reading level of a book on your list. If your child wishes to read a book that doesn’t match their grade level, that is okay. Any time spent reading is time well spent. Not every book has to be challenging, and sometimes just getting children to read is enough to spark a lifelong interest in books. In the end, the goal of gauging reading level is to get your child to read and keep them reading. written by Akilah Brittian
Congratulations to local poet and spoken-word artist Roscoe Burnems for being selected as the City of Richmond's first-ever Poet Laureate! Burnems is the founder of Writer's Den Art Collective, and with them he hosted the Poet-tree Stage at the First Annual RVA Booklovers' Festival. “It is the diversity of the city and the adversities that we are able to overcome as a community that cultivate our resilience as people,” said Burnems. “This is the soil for change and progression to sprout and expand into a tree that blooms the fruit of our tenacity. We decide if that fruit is sweetened with peace or embittered with division.” Burnems will make his public debut at the Poe Museum's Birthday Bash (virtual) on January 16. Download the press release here!
Have you heard the gift-giving rule of thumb? Give them something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. There’s no better gift to give than a book! For the little ones, the adults, and everyone in between, we’ve got a list of the best books to give this holiday season. Check out these awesome titles, and cross some names off your shopping list! Order online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or an independent bookseller in time for Christmas. If you're local, we can offer contact-free pickup at our downtown office! Kids' Christmas These books are fantastic for any little people in your life waiting up for Santa! McKinley and the Present Pixies written by Dirk and Debbie Kagerbauer illustrated by Kelly Lane McKinley is a five-year-old anxious to get his Christmas presents. McKinley learns from some extraordinary visitors an important lesson that is perfect for reminding our young ones of the true meaning of Christmas! Santa’s Sleigh Is Stuck written by Karen Foley illustrated by Michelle Simpson It’s Christmas Eve, and Santa takes an unexpected detour to a seaside town. This lyrical Christmas tale is perfect for those who love the beach just as much as they love Santa! The Perfect Pointe written by Victoria Coniglio illustrated by Lintang Pandu Pratiwi It is Christmas and Poppy is ready for her perfect pointe performance of the Nutcracker. At the end of her performance, Poppy gets a special surprise. This heartwarming story is the joy that we all need to be reminded of this season! Kids Non-Christmas These kids’ books will be a wonder to read any time of year! Seasons for Stones written by Nikki Bergstresser illustrated by Kelly O’Neill In this precious story, Tilly goes on a creative mission to lift her neighbor’s spirits. The perfect story for teaching the magic small acts of kindness have in making a big difference on those around us! Chester Chipmunk Will Not Sleep written by Kathleen George illustrated by Louisa Mae Unable to sleep, Chester Chipmunk needs some help from Mama Chipmunk to remind him of all the fun that awaits him in his dreams! This story of childhood wonder will easily become the new bedtime favorite! Le Mouse Caper written by Marilyn Seigle illustrated by Maegan Penley Chloe, a mouse from Paris, takes a trip to visit her cousin in America. The adventure of these mischievous mice is one you won’t soon forget! Perfect for young ones eager to explore the world themselves. Middle Grade Brandylane has some great picks for your family members and friends whose reading level is growing almost as fast as they are. Peter Polo and the Snow Beast of Hunza by Craig Bradley Follow Marco Polo’s younger brother Peter on a journey across China to solve a mystery and save the people of Hunza. Your loved ones will love this gift, as they find themselves taken along on this fantastical quest! The Blameless by E.S. Christison After Princess Brie’s family is murdered, and kingdom is overthrown by a tyrant, she must flee into the protection of the Blameless. Princess Brie’s journey into a new world and quest for vengeance is sure to be an inspiration to its readers. If you're getting this book as a gift, check out some Blameless merch to go with it! Simone LaFray and the Chocolatiers’ Ball by S.P. O’Farrell Simone LaFray, a genius middle-schooler must use the connections inherited by her spy mother to stop an infamous thief, all while helping her father prepare for the Chocolatier’s Ball. With fast-paced action and chocolate, this book has everything a kid could need! Fiction For the adults in your life, these fictional tales are the perfect stories to get lost in this season! A Little Rebellion Is a Good Thing: Troubles at Traymore College by Duncan Clarke Taking you back to 1969, this story follows one young political science professor as he stands with the student body against the tyrannical leadership of a small women’s college. With themes of social justice, this enthralling read will be a hit with whoever gets it. The Precariousness of Done by Tony Houck While visiting his old homestay family in Spain, a young American named Ethan grapples with his parents divorce and his mother’s recent death. Meanwhile Thomas struggles with his obsessive-compulsive disorder and longs after a woman he can’t have. Capturing the beauty of Spain, this book is sure to invoke both joy and sorrow in all of its readers. Verities: A Journey by Tracks by Randy White Living by the train tracks in a small town in Verities, a young man named Sam searches for meaning in his troubled life. This hopeful story of rising above ones circumstances in the face of injustice, this is a must-read for anyone in need of some hope after this year. Nonfiction If fiction isn’t their taste, Brandylane has a great selection of nonfiction books to recommend this season. A Photographic Journey through the James River Park System by Bill Draper This beautiful photography collection serves as a one of the most beloved park systems in the nation, the James River Park System. This lovely book is guaranteed to be a hit with nature lovers and Richmond devotees alike. From Chaos to Connection: A Marriage Counselor’s Candid Guide for the Modern Couple by Lori Epting This insightful guide features important advice from a marriage counselor herself on how to work towards a better marriage. Sometimes the perfect gifts are the ones that teach us how better ourselves. Lifeline 65: How Small Connections and Big Enthusiasm Can Change Education by Ryan T. Stein Encouraging educators to build authentic relationships with students and their families, this book reaches beyond test scores to completely transform the educational experience. If you’re looking for a book to honor the educators working tirelessly this year, this is the perfect pick. Memoir For non-fiction lovers who want to dig deeper into the lives of others, Brandylane has an inspiring collection of memoirs for you to gift this year. Dinosaurs in the Cornfield: Lessons Unearthed on My Grandfather’s Farm by William B. Hardison, Jr. This collection of stories from the author’s boyhood summers spent on his grandfather’s Tennessee farm teaches important life lessons. Readers will be inspired by this collection and reflect on the wisdom found in their own childhood experiences. Safe by Elspeth Roake This story of self-discovery follows Roake, a competitive equestrian, as she battles the shadows of mental illness and childhood trauma while aspiring to perfection in the show ring. Capture your loved ones attention with this intensely honest and heartwrenching read. Wacky on the Junk by Kathy Varner Looking back on her misspent youth of drinking, drugs, and processed sugar, Varner reflects on all the wacky adventures encountered on the road to health and happiness. This witty and hilarious read will encourage readers to embrace both the beauty and pain in their own lives. History Delving into the past, you’ll find some great picks for any history buffs in your life. These stories of the past are sure to be a hit! Eyewitness: My Journey to The Hague by Isak Gasi and Shaun Koos With the assistance of author Shaun Koos, former Olympic canoeist Isak Gaši describes how the Bosnian War of 1992–1995 enveloped his hometown of Brčko, the atrocities he witnessed, and the testimony he gave against their perpetrators during the International Criminal Trials. This book is a perfect example of how our personal stories are deeply intertwined with the larger historical moments we live within. Richmond’s Unhealed History by Ben Campbell Campbell examines the contradictions and crises that have formed Richmond over more than four centuries, from before Columbus to the current era. He believes the people of Richmond can prove to the world that race and class can be conquered by the deliberate intention of honest and dedicated citizens. No better gift could be given to a Richmonder than a book that honors their cities history! From Rebel Yell to Revolution: My Four Years at UVA 1966–1970 by Joel Gardner Gardner dives in to the historic changes that occurred as anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights sentiment and demonstrations swept over the campus, altering the spirit of the school forever. Not only will this be an easy gift for history lovers, but also any alumnus in your life! Poetry Brandylane has some great recommendations for poets and poetry lovers alike who love the beauty of language. Before the Foundation of the World by Susan Weiner This book speaks to the ways of God, examining the nature of good and evil in God’s creation and celebrating God’s covenant with man. This selection is perfect for poetry lovers in your life looking to explore and grow in their faith. The Grit and Joy of Being by Anne Poarch Poarch’s beautiful poetry book is a raw yet joyful exploration of nature and womanhood. This soulful collection provides an opportunity for empowerment and growth that readers will cherish. Birds at the Post Office by Richard Lee Zuras These poems illuminate a life of family—a life of love and loss: jobs worked, kids born and raised, love’s passions and ebbs, failures and successes, the big moments and the small, the dreams and the nightmares. This ode to family, and the memories we share will be the perfect gift to show your loved ones how much you care.
Toby, a child with a shaved head, purple glasses, and light brown skin, is excited for their first day of school—that is, until recess, when their classmates make a point of asking whether they are a girl or a boy. After consulting their mother after school, who encourages the child to “grab hold of my courage,” Toby returns the next day ready to affirm their identity: “most days, I don’t feel like either [a boy or a girl]... I feel like Toby, and it’s okay to just be me,” Starling writes. Scratchy-textured illustrations by DuFalla include characters of different skin tones, hair textures, and abilities, with Toby shown in a kid-friendly range of outfits and accessories. Paragraphs skew long, but age-appropriate prose and a simple yet compelling first-person narrative should prove engaging for early readers. Ages 4–8. (Jan.) Read the review here! https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-951565-39-8
We’re excited to announce that our fair city will now choose our own poet laureate! Mayor Stoney has issued an official proclamation, and poets from around the Commonwealth are invited to apply. (Applications close November 5, 2020). At Brandylane, we believe in the power of poetry to inspire, unite, and connect our community, and we know firsthand that Richmond is a soulful city that embraces its poets and artists. The literary community here has exploded over the last decade, and it continues to flourish. James River Writers, The Writers Den RVA, RVA Booklovers' Festival, The Poe Museum, Life in Ten Minutes Writing Studios, local booksellers, libraries, publishers, and dozens of other organizations and activities celebrate the literary arts. We’re confident that an official poet laureate endorsed by the city will bring poetry to the people and even more creative passion to our passionate city. Join us in spreading the word far and wide to Virginia’s book and poetry lovers, and encourage your poet friends to apply. Learn more about Richmond's new poet laureate program! written by Robert Pruett
From poetry to fiction to creative nonfiction, writers and readers both find lessons to learn in each genre that are uniquely different. If this was not the case, there would only be one way to write, right? In our current world where pandemia isolates us, pick up your favorite book and allow some good writing to take you places. You just have to decide where you want to go, and how. POETRY Poetry is like a painting: it needs more than one read, or one glance, for you to see what it wants you to see. A good poem teaches that you can turn anything in life into a work of art, each word with purpose and all the words together creating a coordinated swipe across the page like brushstrokes of a larger painting. A good poem is an enigma, compressing beautifully complex messages that can't even be fully captured in many words, let alone few. A good poem therefore challenges you to notice and fill in the gaps. Reading recommendation: The Grit and Joy of Being by Anne Poarch FICTION If reading poetry is experiencing little slices of life, fiction is experiencing the whole story. Fiction allows you to live a life that is not your own and thus partake in a journey where you learn about the joy of living through another. You're allowed to see with others’ eyes and are trusted with the shoes the story puts you into. Readers also realize a bigger message: we are not an island. Throughout our days, so many unique stories surround us—the person passing you in the grocery store or driving alongside you on the highway. Where are they going? How do they feel today? You don't know, but in a story you are trusted with the front-row view. Fiction reminds us to notice those stories around us in our lives. It helps us practice empathy without consciously making an effort—for to truly consume fiction, we cannot press our own stories, ways, and ideas onto the text. We must see and believe it as it is, and put our own agendas aside for the moment. When we crack open a book of fiction, we are devoting ourselves to the page. Reading recommendation: The Precariousness of Done by Tony Houck CREATIVE NONFICTION And if reading fiction is experiencing the whole story, reading creative nonfiction is experiencing the whole story but with a promise that the window is clear. There are no sparkles on the windowpane or fringe and curtains around the edges. The window is clear all the way through. What you read is what you see, and what the author saw. The words are an honest look into a life, and the writer is responsible for being accurate and honest. As a reader, we feel humbled that the author has trusted us with their truth. Reading recommendation: Wacky on the Junk by Kathy Varner So sit back and pick your poison! Don't go into crowds, wash your hands, and let the words take you where you would go if you could. And if you don't like where you're going, never hesitate to write it yourself. written by Paloma Ferraz
It is a conflict that plagues all booklovers: the adaptation. With the surge of YA adaptations in the last ten years, any booklover knows the feelings that can come with seeing your favorite book heading to the silver screen. Through cast announcements, poster reveals, and trailer drops, you feel your anticipation (and expectations) rise. Then you watch it, and you’re left with disappointment at a movie that seems totally different from your treasured read. Why would they leave out that one character? What about that one scene? This frustration is why many continue to advocate for the scene-by-scene remake that every reader dreams of. As promising as this dream may sound, in my opinion a good book adaptation is not the unwavering dedication to accuracy that many desire, but the ability to translate the essence of the book into the film. What Is the Purpose of an Adaptation? Before you protest, it’s important to look at the purpose of these adaptations. While a lot of these adaptations are made for money, these adaptations are made for many other reasons. Adaptations can ultimately bring a story to a larger audience, expanding the fans of the franchise past just those who love the book. To appeal to this larger audience, adaptations must be made to entertain the general public. They are able to translate this story into a new medium, which can open up a lot of opportunities. However, this means their priority isn’t making a good adaptation, it is making a good movie. To be fair, they sometimes fail at even doing that. These motivations lead to many adaptations compromising the source material. Looking at The Hunger Games franchise, to be able to market it to larger audiences, they pushed the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale, often ignoring that the most important relationship in the books was that between Katniss and her sister. And that isn’t even the worst betrayal an adaptation has committed! Which is why it is understandable the frustration people feel towards adaptations. Looking at these criteria, you can start to see how the scene-by-scene remake might fail to reach the core goals the adaptation was made to accomplish. Beyond this, there are even more reasons why what we seek isn’t obtainable. The Complete Remake Won’t Be Satisfying It is easy to understand why people advocate for the adaptation that sticks entirely to the book. It is fascinating to see the story you love translated in exact detail from how it was laid out in the book, breathing life into how you’d always envisioned it. However, the remake of your dreams will never bring satisfaction due to one core reason: medium. Books and movies are different, they work within different methods and systems. A movie can’t convey inner dialogue the way a book does or explore the intimate feelings of the characters. A movie has limits of imagination where a book has none. On the contrary, a book can’t have background music or a color palette. They express stories in different ways, meaning that a book could never be fully expressed through film. Along with that, these different media often have different audiences. Opening the door for an adaptation to apply the methods of filmmaking to a book’s story also opens that story up to a new audience. An accurate remake that isn’t altered to fit its medium wouldn’t expand its audience much, which would only serve to hold back the story you love so dearly. Even when only fans of the book are considered, the key to reading a book is the power of your imagination. Everyone pictures a book differently, which only complicates the idea of a complete remake even more. It would be impossible to create a movie that satisfies the expectations and imaginations of every single person who has loved that book. Expectations must change, because if our expectations are too high, we will never be able to enjoy the beauty of a book on screen. So What Is the Answer? I offer alternative expectations to booklovers for these adaptations. Expect the book to expand itself through film and reach new audiences while still satisfying the fans whose passion originally brought it to screen. Achieving this solution lies in identifying the essence of the book. “Essence” means: What made you love this book? What made this book unique and captured the hearts of its fans? It could be dynamic characters, real or figurative magic, heart-wrenching relationships, the fascinating settings, or the theme behind it all. To make a good adaptation, writers and directors must be dedicated to celebrating that essence–the core of the book. The Harry Potter franchise is a great example of this. While storylines were changed, inaccuracies developed, and things left out, the movies conveyed what originally made people fall in love with the books: the magic of being at Hogwarts, the friendship, the triumph of good over evil. While people might still complain about certain things, most would agree that the films were a satisfying depiction of the soul of the original books. By capturing what made this book matter to you and what swept you out of your own world, the film can be a success for both the reader and filmmakers. This satisfaction can open the adaptation up to more possibilities and allow for it to expand on the source material. Telling this story through a new medium lends itself to a new creative vision. In Greta Gerwig’s 2019 film adaptation of Little Women, you can see that she was able to take many creative liberties with costumes and lighting and editing. Gerwig added her own interpretation and meaning to the movie while still allowing the original story to shine through. Many films have found ways to use the medium of film to enhance their stories in ways the books couldn’t. In the Perks of Being a Wallflower 2012 film adaptation, the iconic tunnel scene includes the important final lines of the book through voiceover, but it also has the background song swelling over the dialogue, breathing more life into the scene. By letting the audience hear the evocative music they couldn’t have heard in the book, the movie is able to add meaning to this scene and make it even more poignant. This compromise is becoming increasingly popular as more and more adaptations are being picked up as TV shows. With a spread out story, fans are more open to giving creators the time to pursue their creative interpretations of a book without having to compromise the accuracy. This seems like a good step in the right direction for merging the fans of the book with new audiences and growing the franchise. Let’s be clear: You do not need to accept every adaptation as it is simply because it is a different medium, as there are definitely adaptations that deserve criticism regardless (looking at you, Percy Jackson movies!). However, we can evaluate our expectations and question whether they’re the best option or even realistic. This contemplation can allow us to open ourselves to different expectations and find new ways to appreciate adaptations, even when they don’t exactly match our original perceptions of our beloved book. Will the movie ever be better than the book? Maybe not, but we can open ourselves to enjoying the two separately and allowing ourselves to love the story no matter what medium it is in—because the story will always be what matters most. written by Corinne Martin