Literary adaptation

Literary adaptation is the adapting of a literary source (e.g., a novel, short story, poem) to another genre or medium, such as a film, a stage play, or even ace video game. It can also involve adapting the same literary work in the same genre or medium, just for different purposes, e.g., to work with a smaller cast, in a smaller venue (or on the road), or for a different demographic group (such as adapting a story for children).

Major forms

Novel · Poem · Drama
Short story · Novella


Epic · Lyric · Drama
Romance · Satire
Tragedy · Comedy


Performance (play· Book


Prose · Verse

History and lists

Outline of literature
Index of terms
History · Modern history
Books · Writers
Literary awards · Poetry awards


Criticism · Theory · Magazines


Prevalence of adaptation

An adapted work appeals to a writer, publisher, or producer initially because it gains his interest, both because it has become popular and for the underlying reasons it has become popular.[citation needed] The encounter with the work, with its presumed success, simply sparks the imagination as to its possibly application in other genres or media. Sometimes the editing of these works without the approval of the author can lead to a court case.

It also appeals because it obviously works as a story; it has interesting characters, who say and do interesting things. This is particularly important when adapting to a dramatic work, e.g., film, stage play, teleplay, as dramatic writing is some of the most difficult. To get an original story to function well on all the necessary dimensions—concept, character, story, dialogue, and action—is an extremely rare event performed by a rare talent.

Perhaps most importantly, especially for producers of the screen and stage, an adapted work is more bankable; it represents considerably less risk to investors, and poses the possibilities of huge financial gains. This is because:

  • It has already attracted a following.
  • It clearly works as a literary piece in appealing to a broad group of people.
  • Its title, author, characters, etc. may be a franchise in and of themselves already.

Process of adaptation

From a legal standpoint, when a literary source has not passed into the public domain, rights must be arranged for the adaptation to be performed legally. Plagiarism occurs in every genre, and throughout history, but such literary rights violations can be challenged in court. In the case of Hollywood films, judgments for the plaintiff can run into the millions of dollars, but these have typically been for outright theft of a screenplay idea rather than for fraudulent adaptations (see Buchwald v. Paramount).

Because of the importance of telling a tight story with a limited number of characters, short stories often make better sources for adaptable material for the screen and stage than do novels.[citation needed]

For the stage much the same applies except that theater audiences tend to accept and prefer works of a more conceptual, thought-based nature[citation needed], meaning their preferences need to be considered when selecting a work for adaptation, but also when determining how best to adapt it. The stage imposes physical limits of size and technology. Not every illusion that can be made to appear real on the movie screen can be made to appear so on stage.

See also

External links

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