I’m a big movie watcher. I’m a big reader of books. One of the most interesting lessons for me as a writer came from discovering how often I like the movie version of a book better than the book itself.
The simple reason this applies (and it doesn’t always) is that screenplays have far fewer words in which to tell a story. The distillation of the book’s narrative into a 90 minute movie removes a lot of the fat. Naturally the process can also remove much-loved characters and subplots too, which is why movies of your favourite books are usually to be avoided!
I was thinking about this recently because I both watched and read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in fast succession. I think the movie is far more interesting than the book, both from a pacing point of view and also tighter story telling.
Similarly White Oleander which I saw and read some years ago. I found much of the power of the story drained by the endless return to the mother/daughter relationship in the book. Moments that were more succinctly covered in the movie.
Though Blader Runner is a completely different story to Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep? it does in some ways epitomise the power of retelling stories in film. While utilising an action movie story structure, I think it still captures the wonderful concepts of the book, and many of the existential questions raised there.
Rambling, tangentially plotted books are a delightful indulgence when they’re done well (and of course that’s subject to personal taste), but I think novellists can learn something useful about plotting from their screen writing cousins.