This time I am doing a two-part blog, both centered around the first two Shannara books (Sword & Elfstones) and the TV show. Let’s Just call these two blogs Thing One and Thing Two.
I want to talk first about why I favored a TV adaptation of Elfstones of Shannara for the MTV series, even though Elfstones is the second book in the series. This has troubled more than a few people, and I have talked about it on and off in various venues and articles and interviews. It was basically my idea from the very first to use Elfstones as the jumping off point for the series, and I thought I had some pretty good reasons for doing so. You can judge for yourself.
At the top of the list is making sure the series finds an audience so it continues for more than one season. I didn’t get involved in all this just to see it fade away after year one. I want it to be good and I want it to be a success. What is the point of going through all this otherwise? Certainly not to say I had one of my books made into a TV series. Or a movie, for that matter. A video format is a fresh creative art form, and if you believe in making it come out right and intend to put your best foot forward in doing so, then you probably seek longevity.
I chose Elfstones for several reasons. Mostly, it begins with demographics. All movie studios and TV networks pay close attention to demographics. They run surveys and take potential audience samplings on just about everything because they want a good audience response to any project. Duh. What I asked myself is, how do I help them with that? First of all, I made it a point to think about who is going to watch the show. Readers, yes – I should hope. But lots of other people have to come into the mix, too. You need to entice people who maybe don’t know anything about the show. Maybe haven’t read or even heard of the books. Maybe don’t even want to start. (I know, I know, but there will be some). And you have to accept that an MTV audience is essentially young and skewed towards women.
Okay. So Elfstones has two strong female leads who can satisfy that last part. Amberle and Eretria are good, strong women characters with interesting back stories and mercurial personalities. MTV’s audience should be drawn to that. Also, there is a love triangle that runs throughout the story – an unusual one, admittedly, but one that will keep newcomers guessing. Also, the lead females will interact on several levels with the main character, Wil Ohmsford. Lastly, Elfstones is a much more filmable (is that a word?) story for a TV budget, which has some necessary constraints. There is really only one major battle that needs to be shown (battles are expensive, I’m told), and most of the story centers around the interaction of various individual characters.
None of this is true in Sword. Yes, Sword of Shannara is the first book. Yes, it is a good adventure story. But it has no female characters, involves numerous battle scenes, and provides no meaningful love story. That’s three strikes right there.
I might add that Elfstones also offers an introduction to Wishsong, which is crucial to virtually every other Shannara story. So if we intend to use any of those stories down the road, best to get the set up out of the way early so the wishsong can appear by Season Two.
What? Will there be a Season Two? Oh, sure. You believe me, don’t you?
Onward and upward to Thing Two next week. Terry.
28 responses to “25th Most Powerful Author Working In Hollywood: Thing One”
Here I was, all ready to be indignant and argumentative, and you come out with all these “reasonable” and “well-thought-out” arguments. Burst my bubble… 😉
No one knows your work better than you do, and all of your reasons to start with the second book do make sense. I however LOVED the first book, but then I’m a man in my 40s, and I don’t watch much MTV. Part of me sees it as something of a pity that the story needs to be adapted for what will work on television, but as I said, the reasons do make perfect sense. I look forward to watching. I was around in the early 80s when MTV actually showed nothing but music videos. Times have certainly changed.
I have faith, and have always had faith, in your judgment Terry. My hope is that the TV series extends at least to the Scions of Shannara quartet, which is in my opinion the best set of books in the Shannara series as a whole. Stand-alone, I think Wishsong is the strongest novel and Elfstones is the second, and Elfstones is a GREAT way to introduce the Shannara world. Though of course I hope all the books are turned into great mini-series.
As someone who is a hardcore Tolkien fan as well, I would be annoyed by people who couldn’t see past the similarities between SWORD and LOTR, which is a smallmindedness that is best to avoid altogether.
Although I do hope that once the Shannara Chronicles is a successful series, a movie about SWORD is made. A movie based on SWORD would potentially widen the audience, raising interest in the TV show AND the books.
Also, I think a card game and a video game would be fun. A Zelda-style Shannara game on the Nintendo Wii U? Yes please.
Anthony, your reply made something occur to me. I agree with you about the similarities between the two, but It’s not something I personally would like to see. (although sword kicks rings ass) I would love for the series to spur enough interest in shannara to bring an untold story to the big screen. Not without Terry’s involvement and approval of course. There are many gaps I would love to know more about. One in particular is Brona’s story. We all know he was a druid, but was he ever a truly good man? Maybe he had a love interest, or was just a regular guy. IDK there’s a ton of good material that doesn’t necessarily have to come from the books. Just some shannara imagination. BTW I would love to see landover on wii u!
Kinsler, I’d be totally pumped about untold Shannara stories on the big screen. But I still think that SWORD deserves some kind of adaptation, since it’s what started it all, even if it was an animated film or something. And I agree – playing Ben Holiday on the Wii U would be awesome.
I can’t resist spilling the beans: is the July 2015 series premiere date on the IMDB true?
im hopeing that when this series takes off and is(not if)but is hugely successful that hollywood will take a look at sword being made into a movie.they have the money to do that thats what im hopeing for mr brooks
I like the Elfstones choice for many of the same reasons Terry mentions. I also can see potential in using events from Sword as followup/back story to the druid order and Allanon, in future episodes/seasons. My biggest perplexing concern is the ever changing cast of Druids throughout the entire series. But that is also one of the reasons I can’t wait to watch.
Elfstones (with Wishsong close behind), is by far my favorite of the Shannara series. Sword is good, but is simply too similar to Lord of the Rings. Audiences who are unfamiliar with the novels (and this will be MOST of the viewers) will quickly point this out and likely it would hurt the show. Elfstones on the other hand is an original and far less derivative than Sword, and as pointed out includes dynamic and interesting characters of both genders.
I think it was the best decision and I am looking forward to it.
I think it was the right choice as a place to start. Flash backs of the “Sword of Shannara” will help make it clear if there is any need to understand Wil Ohmsford’s right to the stones or his lineage and his family connections in the past. I am looking forward to seeing where it all goes. Ü
Just because Sword wasn’t filmed doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I’m okay with it being a backstory to draw on. Except maybe the beginning for a few mins talking about what came before I don’t want flashbacks the rest of the season regarding sword. I’m okay with talking about the past but don’t go back, only go forward.
Great points Terry, and I agree with them. I think Elfstones was a wise choice to kick off the series.
The one point of contention I would have would be where you say “we have to accept that an MTV audience is essentially young and skewed toward women”, which I would argue would be the exact reason some fans had reservations about the choice of network to begin with. My favorite part of the story is NOT the love triangle, but the elements of adventure and fantasy not experienced in our world. Other than that I am really looking forward to this!
will there be a chance to sneak some sword in there through , maybe, some allanon memories or some fireside stories
After the series airs on MTV you are going to have to change your title to “The Most Powerful Author Working in Hollywood.”
Terry, you reasons for picking Elfstones over and above Sword are all valid, and I have no argument with this. But to other readers here may I add to your reasoning about picking Elfstones for the first series. As Terry say’s fight scenes are expensive, but think about it, in the Sword it is a mental thing that allows the Sword to destroy the Warlock Lord. How would producers, directors and the actors generate this feeling to the prospective audiance. Where as the Elfstones are held in the hand and generate light much easier to produce this affect than to try and relay a mental image. I am on my third read of the series as I write. Here in Australia we have to wait until September for any new releases. All the best to Terry and all you Shannaraites.
Love all your books. Sorry to have missed you last signing. It was in Portland and I never saw the notice. Will be there on the Jun 16th signing.
Oh Wishsong! Now that would be cool. Keep working hard, Terry, and bring us four more seasons of Heritage afterwards, too. Looking forward to Shannara Chronicles soon and love the updates.
Ok, did someone actually suggest making Shannara into a Wii game??? Yep, they sure did. Wow, what a fantastic idea.
Like most Shannara fans I was a bit skeptical when I read “Elfstones” was going to be the first story adapted. However, I began to re-read the entire series 3 weeks ago and now I’m up to Morgawr and realize that this is the perfect book to start with. Word & Void, as we now know a precursor to the Shannara world as we know it, would have been an instant turn off and we would never have gotten to the good stuff. And as it has been stated several times here on the comments sections that “Sword” is similar to LOTR and may turn people off. Also, after re-reading “Sword” it’s possible that they come back around yo it after they establish their fan base.
Regardless, every time I see a new update I can’t help but be excited!
Thank you again Mr. Brooks for creating this wonderful world and letting us all in!
Huh, I really liked Word & Void and would have been pretty darn happy had that been adapted into a show/movie. Blends right into Genesis of Shannara and a post-apocalyptic world and all kinds of fun characters. I kinda thought that an urban fantasy with decidedly modern characters would have translated well onto the old television. And it fits the age, race and gender requirements wonderfully. Genesis does anyways.
Regardless, I’m pumped for Elfstones. Kidding me?!?! Been waiting 30 years for this. Started reading Terry at 14. The fact that any Shannara is going to be on television is dreamy.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Word & Void. My own opinion here is that o don’t feel that it would not have been a good starting point. Not that we couldn’t ever come back to it, just the fact that the casual fan may not have interest. It took me the better part of a year to get through Word & Void the first time. I can’t tell you how many times I had to re-read the first chapter. It took me a while to mature as a reader to really get it. Even though I was a fan and waited for the Monday night midnight release of the new books I needed that time to better understand reading.
My hope, and belief, is when the show comes out on TV is that people who have never experienced the literary prowess of Mr. Brooks will go purchase the books and get to enjoy the books that we all love.
This is all my opinion of course. I’m not the expert. Mr Brooks, Shawn and the folks over at MTV are. We just get to sit back and enjoy the ride.
I smell what you’re stepping in, Pete. My 5th grade reading teacher read The Hobbit to our class and that was my introduction to fantasy. All jacked up over reading that I dove right into LotR only to be met by a brick wall built by a linguist. So I detoured and quite literally came face to face with Elfstones of Shannara In a used book store. Read that first, then tracked down Sword, and waited for the release of Wishsong.
In a way Terry has made all of this come full circle for me. I started reading the series out of order with Elfstones and 30 some odd years later the tv show is starting with Elfstones. Brooksian harmony at work here.
Baloney. The sex and race of characters being adapted from books or comics to screen are always being changed. And the elfstones could have been threaded into a first season that didn’t feature them, even if they weren’t originally mentioned in “Sword…”
The mkst likely reason is: “Sword of Shannara” was way too similar to LOTR to even consider attempting to launch a TV property with. A show based on “Sword…” wouldn’t be as warmly accepted as, inexplicably, the book was upon its release.
Not only would it torpedo the chances of a potential TV series, but it would draw undue attention to the fact that a sprawling fantasy novel series begun with a breathtakingly unimaginative and borderline libellous first book.
Baloney on your baloney. Sword can absolutely be skipped. And spouting off with your LotR comparisons is nothing new. You aren’t being provocative in bringing that up. That’s old news that’s been bandied about water coolers for decades. Is it possible that the comparisons between LotR and Sword had something to do with it? Yes. Yes it is possible. It may even be likely. So what’s your point?
Elfstones offers exactly what executives want, a compelling story, love interests, strong female characters that don’t have to be written in, a powerful magic item that for continuity purposes is perfect as the stones reappear throughout the series more so than the sword does, and, just to nail this point home, strong female characters that don’t have to be written in. The writers don’t have to worry about a firestorm of anger because they made someone female. Elfstones is packaged very nicely for writers to work with.
And what is wrong with that? Nothing.
They are the ones who need to retain viewership. They are the ones who need to make it interesting. They are also the ones who also need to make money.
We are here just along for the ride. We have all been eagerly awaiting some sort of movie/TV medium of Shannara for years. We just need to sit back and enjoy the ride.
It’s not the “perfect” way that every reader wants it. No reader will get “their” way. We do need to trust Terry, who is the creator, in what he is doing. He is not going to lead us astray.
Or maybe he is…. Shawn???? A little help here. Are we all just being messed with?
Depends what you mean by “astray?” There are some minor changes in the story but the integrity of the overall story has been absolutely maintained.
I would say this. Sword probably *could* be successfully adapted, but a lot more would have to be changed to satisfy Terry’s very valid points about filmability, than is the case for Elfstones.
Note how in the interest of filmability, the Hobbit was significantly altered by adding a strong female character and a love triangle where none existed before. Now, true, Peter Jackson being Peter Jackson, he can get away with quite a bit and people will still go to see his movies, even if they complain about the changes. In the interests of filmability, Sword would need to have similar changes. At the very least, some significant female characters and love interests going on.
One no-brainer change would be to expand the role of Shirl Ravenlock in the series. Another possibility would be to make Panamon Creel female. But since these characters are introduced later on in the book, then any possible adaptation to TV would need to extend out the roles of these characters backwards so that they’re around at the very beginning of the series — even if they’re off doing their own thing (as in the case of Panamon Creel).
Probably the best alternative, though, would be to add a female character right to the central story dynamic. I’m thinking the group that leaves from Culhaven should have a brand-new female character added to it, one who should stick with things until the end of the story.
In any case, Sword *can* be adapted, but the fans would need to be willing to accept more changes to the storyline.
Hopefully I don’t rile too many fans by even suggesting the above changes. 🙂
Other thoughts, given the comments about expanding out Brona’s storyline, and about the filmability of the sword’s plot device vs. the elfstones. There is, of course, the First King of Shannara novel, and the same arguments about pulling in elements from Sword into the Shannara Chronicles TV series could also be made about pulling in elements from First King into a Sword season. As far as filming a “mental thing,” I don’t see that as a big issue. Delving into Shea’s memories vs. Brona’s memories, with voiceover “mental” narratives from both of them, could potentially tie together several running plot threads of the season. It’s a semi-original way of handling the whole “what makes a hero a hero” trope, although the producers might want to tease that out a bit differently than the book did.
I have been a huge fan of the Shannara series since I was a teen (years long since gone), and contacted your publisher in regards to optioning the series for television when I was 19 only to be told that “Terry has no interest in seeing his work brought to the screen, large or small.”
I am happy to see that has changed, but devastated that I didn’t get the opportunity to be the one to help you bring it. 😉 I will certainly be watching.
The MTV summer tv lineup is out (never thought those words would leave my fingertips) and Elfstones is not on it. Will this be a fall release? Only time will tell. Can’t wait! Come on MTV, give us a good show! My excitement is palpable.