Hollywood has regularly looked to authors for material on which to base scripts—just try counting how many Stephen King stories have become movies or TV shows. (For the record, the answer is 81.)

However, the relationship has historically been a fairly distant one. Frequently, the author was paid for the rights to their material, and then was shut out for the rest of the process: No consulting, no producing, no say as to how his creation would be recreated in film.

Alan Moore, who authored stories such as V for Vendetta, has been a vocal opponentof his lack of involvement and the resulting changes to his material. And Anne Rice, so unhappy with the casting of Tom Cruise in 1994’s Interview with the Vampire, asked for her name to be entirely disassociated with the movie project. (Upon actually seeing Cruise’s performance, she later changed her mind.) And then, of course, we have Twilight.


Knowledge of Subject Matter

That relationship has considerably transformed in recent years. Authors are more commonly involved in the creative process, with the recognition that they are not only an expert on the source material but also on the general subject matter as well.

Take, for example, the long-running series Bones, based on a series of crime novels by Dr. Kathy Reichs. The main character, Dr. Temperance Brennan (nicknamed “Bones”), is a forensic anthropologist, just like Reichs herself. A variety of incidents in the books are based on Reichs’ real-world experiences. (Being a bit tongue-in-cheek, in the TV show, Brennan is also an author who writes about a character named Kathy Riechs.)

Reichs has been kept on behind the scenes as a producer. While there is little direct connection between her books’ plots and the TV stories, she is recognized as an invaluable asset on the subject of forensic anthropology. She sees her primary role on the show as keeping the science true to form.

What Viewers Want

The nature of film and TV changes over the years. Today, audiences are much more interested in complex, three-dimensional characters with whom they can relate. That is an aspect of writing that has thrived in the book world, where readers can often immerse themselves in the lives of the main characters and recognize other figures as fully fleshed out people rather than limited stereotypes.

Film and television have significant time constraints. Traditionally, an entire plot had to be contained in a single episode or movie. One of the casualties of that limiting factor has been characterization.

Besides turning to the experts of characterization – authors – producers have also started to embrace story arcs in television and trilogies in movies. This releases some of the time constraints and allows for much greater examination of the main characters, rather than hammering through a plotline over the course of 60 minutes. In short, they’re making their products a bit more like books.

The issue of time does, however, continue to exist. Everything in an 800-page novel simply cannot fit into even a three-hour movie. The result is the ever-voiced complaint, “the book is much better than the movie.” And the answer to that has been to start splitting books into multiple movies, such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Parts 1 and 2) and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Parts 1 and 2). More and more, movies are playing out much more closely to their novel counterparts.


Another area that has been productive for authors in Hollywood is producing biographies. Unlike novels, which may or may not involve significant research, every biography worth its salt is laden with it. Producing a quality biography, or other true event story, requires a great amount of investigation. By turning to already produced biographic books, movie producers save a great amount of time and trouble. Again, authors are seen as valuable experts in their field of study.

Comic Books and Graphic Novels

Yet another genre being embraced by Hollywood for the past 10 years is that of the superhero, and nearly all such projects are based off of previously written material. Some of these characters, such as Batman and Superman, are iconic, well known to just about everyone, comic book reader or not. That generates interest before the first trailer has even aired.

Not surprising then that nearly all superhero movies and television shows are based on existing characters, well known or otherwise. Television alone currently offers at least six shows based off of comic book or graphic novel characters: Arrow, The Flash, Gotham, Constantine, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. Netflix is expected to add Marvel’s Daredevil to the mix in April, 2015. And, like other interactions between film and print, comic experts are routinely involved with production, including writing and directing.

The relationship between Hollywood and authors is one of continual flux. While a fairly large gulf once divided them, the current trend has been to embrace more and more authors into the folds of film and television. The result has been a new richness of content that satisfies viewers the same way it has long satisfied readers.