Questions 3: The Heart of a Franchise

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Seems like everything coming out is either a reboot, reimagining, rewrite, or something that involves a pre-existing franchise.  This isn’t about originality being dead and nobody wanting to take a risk on a new franchise.  Instead, I’m thinking about how some people just grab these established stories solely for name recognition.  They go on to do whatever they want with them and put very little effort into retaining the heart of the stories, which made them popular in the first place.  I’m not naming names here, but we’ve all seen this happen and heard the excuses.

This is not to say that you can’t take a pre-existing franchise and reboot it in a successful way.  It’s difficult, but not impossible.  One of the key points is honoring the heart of the original story.  This can be part of the lore, the way characters are handled, or anything at the core of its original success.  After all, it isn’t the name that makes a series popular, but what happens inside it and how it makes the readers/viewers feel.  Retain that even with some alteration and you can avoid a lot of grief.

Of course, it’s hard to agree on what the heart of a story is.  Authors have their own definition for it, which varies among them.  Fans have another and non-fans have either a third or don’t care about the heart in the first place.  Then, you have the person coming in to do the rewrite who may have their own ‘heart’ in mind that doesn’t match with the original.  Finally, you have those who simply want to make money at the cost of a franchise’s reputation and cohesive fandom.  Again, I’m not naming names here, so let’s get to the questions.

  1. What do you consider to be the ‘heart’ of a story?
  2. Do you think a rewrite/reboot needs to honor the ‘heart’ of the original story?
  3. How would you feel if your books were adapted with no concern for the ‘heart’ of the story?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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18 Responses to Questions 3: The Heart of a Franchise

  1. #3 Peter Bart was a mentor to me 40 years ago, he gave me this advice: keep in mind that when you sell a screenplay (or the film rights to your novel), it no longer belongs to you and the new owner can do whatever the hell they want to do it. It’s no different from when you sell your house: it doesn’t matter how you feel about the new owner’s decision to paint the exterior chartreuse because you no longer have a say in the matter.

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    • Unless you retain some creative rights. I hate that a person can take the creation of another and twist it. A bad adaptation doesn’t do as much damage to the adaptor as the original. Several book series and authors have lost fans and momentum due to a messed up adaptation.

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  2. L. Marie says:

    1. I’m not sure how to answer this. I’m guessing it depends on the franchise? I can’t really tell you what’s at the heart of the Star Wars franchise, since it involves so many different stories. Or do you mean what fans love about that franchise? What causes them to be loyal to it?
    2. I’m always surprised when a company buys a popular franchise, then makes wholesale changes to the characters while featuring storylines that seem antithetical to the franchise. In other words, throwing out what was loved about the franchise in the first place and turning it into something almost unrecognizable as that franchise. My question to the buyer is this: why did you buy the franchise? To generate new fans? To appease old ones? To grow the franchise? To just make money? Another question is: What did you love about the franchise that made you want to buy it? My hope would be that a company honor the franchise by continuing to enhance what makes this franchise great. This could include making needed changes that enhance the brand.
    3. I wouldn’t like someone to take a series I worked on and twist it into something it was never intended to be just to fit an agenda.

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    • 1. It really does come down to the fans, but you can see signs. Star Wars has a lot about good preserving over evil and redemption. The heroes always felt like underdogs. So there was a heart of struggle and continuing on there. Didn’t feel that in the sequels.

      2. The buyer gets the franchise because it’s popular and they see money. They think they can change everything and the original fans will still see it. They assume it’s blind loyalty, which isn’t the case any more because the changes are no longer cosmetic.

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      • L. Marie says:

        1. I agree. The sequels seemed to try too hard to be different, diverse, and subversive. Maybe they could have trusted the fans a little more. This could be why Dave Filoni’s work is so appreciated. He loves the franchise and knows what the fans like. I also enjoyed his work on the Clone Wars animated series, Rebels, and the episodes I saw of The Mandalorian. (I didn’t see the whole first season, because I don’t have Disney +.)
        2. Yes, sadly. But fans will turn on a franchise if it makes them mad enough. I can’t help noticing that Rick Riordan is now doing his own TV adaptation of Percy Jackson after the movies changed so much. And I know that some people liked the movies. But a lot of the fans didn’t. I only saw the first movie. I loved Riordan’s books, so I didn’t want to see another movie.

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      • 1. The sequels hit a point where they seemed to focus on rewriting everything and trying to overshadow the originals. It was like the two trilogies were connected in spite of the newer stuff showing some disdain to the originals. Doesn’t help that the director of the second one was openly saying that lore is pointless and wanted to knock over the chessboard.

        2. I’m curious to see how the Riordan stuff does. Wasn’t impressed with the movies. Heard some people already worried about the books due to some changes, but I wasn’t listening much.

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  3. The ‘heart’ of a story, as far as I’m concerned, is what happens to each of the main characters in the original. A reboot can do what it wants as long as the outcomes for these characters are the same. Time and place can be modified, but not character development. I would want to sue if I felt my books were adapted with no concern for the heart of the story.

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  4. Heart is hard for me to define. It’s established by the author and could involve something as unusual as the science, amazing characters and their interaction, or good vs evil. I think if someone is going to reboot something, they should respect the source material. Concern for my own work might vary depending upon how many zeroes are on the check.

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  5. You could list off all the elements of a story — characters, setting, stakes — but the way it all comes together is what makes it memorable. Would Star Wars have worked as well if any of the actors had been different? Would it have worked without John Williams’ music?

    So hard to pin down!

    Yes, I think adaptations and reboots need to honor the heart of it.

    If my own work was adapted in a disrespectful way… First, I would faint and when I woke up I would keep my mouth shut. If I sold those rights, then I have to live with whatever new interpretation there is.

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    • Movies definitely have a leg up on books here. The music and acting aren’t dependent on the audience. You don’t have to work your imagination as much when events are visually and audibly there.

      It’s interesting how authors have to give up all rights to get an adaptation. They’re the ones who will suffer the most from a bad one. Even if they have no input, the bad movie/show will prevent many people from trying the books. Some fans may leave because they blame the author for allowing it to happen at all. It’s like companies purposely set up these contracts to put the author in a terrible position.

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  6. From what I hear, Hollywood is fairly piratical, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the whole intention is to take authors’ work and avoid fair payment.

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  7. V.M.Sang says:

    Money! That’s at the heart of it. They see a successful book, or series, and want a part of the money generated.
    What the fans love about it is neither here nor there. What the heart of the story is, they don’t care. Just as long as it makes money.
    If they lose those fans, or destroy what was good about it, well, it doesn’t matter. They’ve made their money from that one, so they find another. There’s always another goose to lay more golden eggs.

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