For Slate’s Summer Movie Week coverage, Grady Hendrix writes an interesting article about movie novelizations. You should read the whole article because it brings in novelizations, tie-in books [slightly different], fan fiction, fan message boards, why sci-fi and fantasy get novelized, but not other genres… It’s a pretty cool overview. The article observes that novelizations have the following characteristics:
An accelerated production schedule, often being written in a matter of months or even weeks.
Low quality of writing, since they’re churned out quickly.
Low quality of physical book, usually paperbacks on cheap paper, since the aim is to produce them fast and cheaply.
Limited selling window, since the salability depends on buzz about the movie just before and just at the beginning of its release, which leaves the novelizations on the shelf for about 3 months [at max].
Deviations from the finished movie, since the authors of novelizations frequently work from an earlier version of the script.
Meanwhile, I’m thinking again about the Labyrinth novelization. It’s no secret that I have long loathed the novelization for its painfully bad writing and inspid portrayal of Jareth. However, it’s always interested me because it seems halfway between the rough draft and the final movie. For example:
The novelization provides more background on Sarah’s mom and Sarah’s mom’s boyfriend, who actually has a name in the novelization [Jeremy].
Sarah grabs a broom to defend herself when the goblins enter the house.
Jareth bows when he enters. He also says his name.
Sarah goes the “wrong way” behind one of the knockers’ doors. She enters a crazy scene where the trees, the rocks and the ground are laughing crazily. She runs out of the scene.
The Fireys actually try to help Sarah find the castle, but they are easily distracted, and they don’t know what a castle is.
The ballroom scene actually has some conversation that makes it clear that Jareth is trying to tap into Sarah’s dreams or make her think the scene is a dream.
Again, more conversation in the Escher Maze establishes that both Jareth and Sarah are scared.
There’s also more conversation in the final showdown where he is clearly grasping at straws. He’s more desperate, screaming her name at the end.
Okay, now that I scan through the novelization, I find it interesting for its deviations from the movie. I think of the novelization as an uncut version of the final film. There are bits in the novelization [like Sarah’s broom, “Then…there is a place to look,” “I’ve been expecting you,” etc.] that I’m almost certain were in the movie, but were cut out. [My suppositions are based on a geeky close examination of the novelization, the photo album and the movie. ] Most are just lines of dialog, but I think they do add something to the movie. Characters’ reactions become more realistic; the point of certain scenes becomes more apparent. [Big example: In the final film, the Fireys don’t do anything except provide David Bowie another excuse to break into song. At least in the novelization they advance the plot by helping Sarah on her quest, even though they are inept.]
Hmmm, there’s definitely an essay here…