There is a long tradition of books making it to the screen—and vice versa. Five popular Christian authors talk about the challenges of putting a film to the page.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2013 issue of FamilyFiction digital magazine. Subscribe for free today!

King Kong had one. So did Star Wars, E.T., and
Superman Returns. No, we’re not talking about
misunderstood lead characters. Each script
from these movies was turned into a novelization,
which further expanded and developed
the film’s story. The literary equivalent of a
director’s cut or the special features on a DVD,
movie novelizations have long been a popular
marketing tool in the mainstream industry,
and now many Christian films are enjoying additional
success with them, too.

More than just a retelling of a film’s events,
good novelizations give readers extra of
everything they loved about a movie. Eric
, who wrote the novelizations of
Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and most recently,
October Baby (B&H Books), says he wants to
see new surprises, more back story, and deeper
characterizations that still maintain the
satisfaction of the original story. His favorite
part of the process is adopting a story someone
else has birthed and falling just as deeply in love
with it. “The screenwriters gave it life,” Wilson
says, “and now I get to shine it up, change a
diaper or two, put new clothes on it, and comb
its hair for presentation to the reading public.
If I choose ‘clothes’ (subplots, dialogue, and
characterization) that fit the baby just right,
that gives me great joy.”

Travis Thrasher, author of the Home Run
novelization (David C. Cook), agrees. “It’s first
and foremost about meeting the producer’s
expectations and desires. I want them to be
happy with the final product. At the same
time, my goal is always to write an authentic
story and really get into the characters’ minds
and hearts. My goal is to simply expand and
enhance the story.”

Often that expansion will allow authors to
include scenes that might have been cut from
the shooting script or which delve deeper into a
character’s history. Wilson even got to kill off a
character in Facing the Giants (Thomas Nelson)
and decide the official state in which October
took place, since it was never named in
the film. “I was also able to explore subplots
and include scenes that were precious to the
screenwriters, but were cut from the film due
to time constraints.”

When writing the novelization of Unconditional
(B&H Books), Eva Marie Everson realized
that the movie never told how the main
character and her husband met, fell in love, or
what their marriage was like. “Anything in the
script that left me asking ‘why’ or ‘how’ was
something I embellished,” Everson says. “Then
I had to place myself fully in the characters’
heads, their skins. That allowed me to know
what they were thinking.”

“I would sometimes add more to the scenes
you see in the movie,” says Randy Alcorn
of his novelization of Courageous (Tyndale
House). “I’d expand them. I also wrote a lot
of things that weren’t in the movie at all. I
created brand-new scenes and brand-new
characters. The reason those are necessary
is because if a novel were a movie, it would be
a ten-hour movie.”

Rene Gutteridge, whose novelization of the
upcoming film Heart of the Country is available
now as an ebook and will release in paperback
from Tyndale House this fall, believes a
good novelization is less gimmick and more
art. It should stand on its own, while also
complementing the film.

“Hollywood actually has an Oscar category for
adaptation,” she says. “I love that. There really
is a lot of skill and artistry involved in adapting
another artist’s work into an entirely different
medium. When a novelization becomes art in its
own right, it becomes something special.”

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About The Author

C. J.'s love of reading began when she was a kid dragging home bags of books from the library. When she was twelve she started dreaming about becoming a published author. That dream came true when her first novel Thicker than Blood won a national writing contest. It became the first book in the Thicker than Blood series, which also includes Bound by Guilt, Ties that Bind, and Running on Empty. She has also written Jupiter Winds and Jupiter Storm the first and second books in the Jupiter Winds series. Her children's fantasy Alison Henry and the Creatures of Torone has also been well received. C. J. lives in Pennsylvania with her whippets, two tabby cats, and a Paint mare named Sky.