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.