TV Show ASK TERRY Posted

Terry Brooks
Terry Brooks
For many years the only chance a fan had of speaking to Terry was to meet him at tour events or conventions.

With the establishment of this website in 2000, Terry began accepting two questions from each fan per month. On the last day of the month, five questions are randomly drawn. Terry answers these five questions and they are posted monthly for your enjoyment.

This post, however, is a special edition of Ask Terry. I asked fans to send in their questions about The Shannara Chronicles and Terry has answered. Hope the answers illuminate the decisions made by Terry and the writers.

Note: This section may contain spoilers!


Dear Readers,

In an effort to give you some insight into the decisions that were made by myself or by the writers of The Shannara Chronicles, I have decided to respond to the most thoughtful and insightful comments. Bear with me, pass my answers on, try to live with my decisions. At the end of the day, they are mine to bear.

Shawn Speakman writes: Now that we have reached the halfway point in The Shannara Chronicles, it is time to ask you some of the questions that many of your long-time fans have. Some of them are angry questions, so bear with me while we get your opinions on the TV show.

We’ll begin with the Gauntlet, the race that opens the entire series. Why did you and the writers decide to create the Gauntlet and why did you decide to start the TV show there with Amberle when she doesn’t enter the book until well into it?

Terry Brooks replies: What, are you an idiot or something? I didn’t have anything to do with the gauntlet. The opening was perfect when I wrote the book! Why would I change it?

Okay, snark aside, I’ll tell you why. As I keep saying, TV works differently than a book. A book can open in a more leisurely fashion. But in TV land, the story has to open with something exciting happening right off the bat, a hook to draw the viewers in. This might be due to the current 11.5 second attention span of most humans, but it also has to do with technology and the way everything moves much more quickly than 30 years ago.

So Al, Miles, and I decided we needed a more impactful opening. They came up with the Gauntlet. I loved it. Right away, we are immersed in the Elven city of Arborlon, the Elven culture including the story of the Ellcrys, three of our main characters, and something suspenseful and dangerous to witness. I thought it was brilliant when I read the script for the episode the first time and still think so.

Same with starting there rather than with the slower opening of the Elfstones book. A lot of information has to be put out there quickly in order for anyone to understand what was happening, and the writers found the best way to do that beginning with the race. Also, all the main characters need to be introduced early on in a ten episode season, and it needed to begin with Amberle. Holding her out until episode 3 or 4 like the book does made no sense.

Mike H. writes: WHY, why is the Dagda Mor a Druid? He’s a demon leader in the books who’s been locked away for millennium? Why is the Reaper a warrior instead of the Reaper of death, who moves silently?

Terry Brooks replies: Mike, you ask a good question. Let me start out by saying there is much not yet written about the Forbidding and the demons contained within it. Among those things are the individual histories of the creatures trapped within, including the Dagda Mor. For the sake of this story, he is a fallen Druid turned demon.

The warrior look of the Reaper is (a) because it works better visually than a shadow, and (b) we tried to avoid CGI as much as possible.

Mike H. writes: Why is Slanter in this version at all? He’s a tracker in the series, in a totally different generation of characters. Why did you accept all these changes?

Terry Brooks replies: Mike, again. I gave the writers freedom to do this and more, to change things up. If you stick around, you will discover the reasons behind this. Remember what I have said all along. This is not paint by the numbers; it is a true adaptation with changes allowed. I like what they have done and what they intend to do with Slanter later. Doesn’t hurt to be a little creative.

Thierry writes: How much creative involvement do you have with the TV series The Shannara Chronicles? I noticed that you’re an Executive Producer on the show. What did that mean, exactly?

Terry Brooks replies: I consult on virtually everything connected with the story, beginning to end. If I don’t think something is right or don’t like the impact, I say so. The writers and MTV pay attention and we work it out. But I don’t go throwing my weight around or acting like a child when they do something they feel is necessary to the success of the story. And I don’t insist they follow the book to the letter. So I guess I am sort of an advisor and resource.

Dan Ichigo writes: Why did you sell out to MTV? Personally, I’m going to tell everyone I know never to purchase a novel by you because of the travesty you have allowed.

Terry Brooks replies: Dan, Dan, such anger! Sell out? Travesty? What do you know that I don’t? If you loved the books, why would you forsake them because you don’t like the TV show? The books haven’t changed. The TV show doesn’t define the stories. Maybe you need to just stick to the books.

Tony writes: Why was Stee Jans left out of the TV show? He was such a critical character? And in the history on the TV show, is there no Leah, Culhaven or Callahorn?

Terry Brooks replies: Time and space constraints required that some things be cut. We talked about Stee Jans early on. He is not essential to the Elfstones story, but he may well show up in the series down the road. As for why there isn’t any Leah, Culhaven or Callahorn, none were esssential. There is a finite amount of money available to spend, so you pick and choose accordingly. Those other cities were not crucial to the telling of the story, so they got cut to allow for other things.

Rehan Khan writes: Why was Changeling/Manx killing Eventine changed to Changeling/Arion? The Manx reveal was absolutely great in the book.

Terry Brooks replies: The book is the book, the TV show is the TV show. The writers wanted to use the Changeling’s skill set more frequently than the book did. They liked the idea of morphing him from one episode to the next. I have to say I think it works. The book was different, but that doesn’t mean the TV show has to do the same. (Funny, I keep saying that but no one is paying attention)

Evan Lorentz writes: Do you feel there was a deliberate shift to make the characters more “young and modern” on the show than they come across in the book? (I know the goal is to reach a wider/different audience, but I frankly didn’t recognize the tone or flavor of your writing AT ALL when I tried the show.)

Terry Brooks replies: Several parts to this question. Before we pitched the TV show to the networks, we decided early on to emphasize the direct connection between the world of Shannara and our own world. The images, the language, the references are all to achieve that purpose. Obviously, the book is different. But that was because I consciously chose not to reveal the origins of the Four Lands until about 12 books in. So very little of that is in the early books. Part Two. The characters in the show are not more young than they were in the book. Wil, Amberle and Eretria were teens in the book, too. Hold on. Part Three. I wrote the book, oversaw the show. So the tone and flavor probably doesn’t sound like me. But, again, celebrate it for the very good adaptation it is. Don’t denigrate it because it isn’t exactly the same.

Patrick Danforth writes: I understand that the show is on MTV, but why is it so focused on the sex and romance subplot? It’s distracting from what the show is doing right with the original material.

Terry Brooks replies: What? You don’t like sex and romance? Look. The writers wanted a love story worked into the fabric, and the idea of a triangular relationship was interesting. I went with it. Why shouldn’t both young women fall in love with Wil in the course of things? It makes Amberle’s decision at the end that much more difficult. And more tragic for Wil. The sex is off-stage and non-offensive. I don’t see it as distracting. I loved the scene with Wil in the tub and Eretria trying to get the Elfstones off him by allowing him to think she was seducing him.

Corey Brooks writes: Why so much emphasis on modern technology? In the early books I don’t believe they were constantly walking by helicopters and trucks that look like they’ve only been abandoned for 30-40 years. And why do the clothes look so modern and not fantasy-esque like on the early book covers?

Terry Brooks replies: See the answer to Evan’s question above.

James Davis writes: I went into this with an open mind knowing much of your story telling was going to be revised to accommodate the transition to a TV series. I think most fans can tolerate a great deal of adaptation, so long as the characters remain true to your creation. Amidst a growing concern from your fans, do you ever have a moment of doubt or regret about how some of your characters have been altered for television?

Terry Brooks replies: Look, James, if I had total control – something no author ever gets – I might have done some things differently. But film making is collaborative. That’s the nature of the beast. I have learned this lesson from working with George Lucas and on various failed efforts with both Shannara and Magic Kingdom. I know what sorts of expectations are realistic and which are not. So I have schooled myself in what to expect.

Patricia Taylor writes: Why did you say in an interview that this would be family friendly then the screenwriters put in unnecessary sex (esp 5 mainly). Before the series aired I directed family and friends to start watching because they all watch LotR, etc with their kids. How embarrassing was it to call my sister to tell her to not show her 12 & 15 yr old the current episode when they are all hooked and watching as a family? The sexual references were vague enough but the legs spread fucking was GoT worthy, which you yourself didn’t want as a representation of your books.

Terry Brooks replies: This is a problem, I realize. But I got overruled on that particular scene. Otherwise, I don’t think there’s much to apologize for. I wanted the show to be totally family. Mostly, it is. I do have to say that age appropriateness for sex is something the people of this country have been agonizing over for centuries, so I’m darned if I can put a tag to it that won’t offend someone. I did manage to tamp down a few other scenes, and I will continue to try to do so. It will never reach the Game of Thrones level. Not even close.

Doug Hughey Jr. writes: Paranor is not what I imagined it would look like from the books. Do you like the way it was brought to life in the Chronicles?

Terry Brooks replies: Building another castle is expensive, especially for so short a scene. Besides I like their interpretation of Paranor as a great piece of rock hollowed out with halls and rooms and fallen into ruin. It isn’t the book, but as I have now explained in responding to all these concerns in this Ask Terry, it doesn’t have to be. So, yeah, I like the new version of Paranor. And what’s to say the rest of the castle isn’t hidden by magic?

Jeff Budd writes: Which changes were you most resistant to? What changes were proposed and vetoed?

Terry Brooks replies: Oh, that would be telling, Jeff. There were a lot of exchanges about a lot of things. Most of them, I got what I wanted. Besides, the buck stops with me. I approved everything and stand accountable for it at the end of the day. So no point in saying, “Well, it wasn’t my idea.”

Tom Culkin writes: Was it worth disappointing so many faithful readers for a Hollywood version of your books?

Terry Brooks replies: Tom, I knew going in I was going to disappoint some fans. Couldn’t be sure how many, but possibly a lot. My job was to keep the bones of the story and characters intact. Which I pretty much did. This isn’t any different than disappointing fans who tried the books and didn’t like them. Can’t be helped. I will say that the vast majority of people who loved the books seem to like the TV show, too. Think of it as another version, another experience. Besides, I don’t want people to love the TV show more than the books! How foolish would that be? I’m a book guy, remember?

Chris Robinson writes: Who were the other networks that courted you Terry? Why did you go with MTV?

Terry Brooks replies: There were other networks, Chris. We talked to about a dozen. Three made strong pitches for the show, but MTV made by far the most impressive. In terms of commitment in funding and support for solid production values, good actors, they were head and shoulders above everyone else. Also, they are in transition to network programming and promised to make Shannara their most important new project. I also liked the idea of going where no one expected me to go.

Hope some of this helps all of you who have expressed your concerns. These questions are asked by specific people, but they are indicative of the concerns of others. I will say this one more time. Please treat The Shannara Chronicles for what it is – an adaptation. It doesn’t impact the books, which are still and always will be the same. Enjoy it as a different version of a familiar story. Like it or don’t. But you really can enjoy both without either impacting the other.

All good magic,

Ask Terry

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22 responses to “TV Show ASK TERRY Posted”

  1. As a 20 year fan of the Shannara books, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with the deviations from the book in the first few episodes. However, I finally had a paradigm shift before episode 4 that I should enjoy the show for its own sake and found that I really did.

    At this point the only real complaint that I have is that we, the fans, weren’t prepped better for a new product in the lead up. I was avidly reading everything that came out about the show in anticipation, but don’t remember it saying anywhere that this would be an adaptation that keeps to the spirit of the books, but that changes fundamental aspects of the story. I realize that I may have had tunnel vision and missed it, but I don’t think that it happened.

    Again, I’m enjoying the show, and can even now appreciate the new presentation of the overarching story. I just thought (hindsight being 20/20) that more could have been said.

  2. “This isn’t any different than disappointing fans who tried the books and didn’t like them”

    I guess this says a lot about how us long-time fans are viewed. Someone who tried the books and didn’t like them never was a “fan”, Terry. The fans are the people who have been buying those books for years, as well as all the extra promotional items you advertise here on your website. In other words- the ones who made you popular enough to be considered for a TV show in the first place. Yet, somehow we are no different than someone who picked up your book once and didn’t like it? I have to say I’m sorry to hear that, I guess I’m disappointed in more than just the show.

    I’ve stated what I though of this show enough here. If you did indeed fight for things like you say, then I will say I wish you had fought a little harder (and I’m not necessarily talking about changes in the plot line.) Obviously us fans (the ones who are equivalent to someone who didn’t like the book) have more respect for your story than the people whose hands you placed it in, or there wouldn’t have been a reason to fight for anything.

  3. “The book is the book, the TV show is the TV show…The book was different, but that doesn’t mean the TV show has to do the same. (Funny, I keep saying that but no one is paying attention).”

    Read you loud and clear, Mr. Brooks. I understand that the medium requires (and can benefit from) alterations, subtractions, and additions. Other movies/shows (LOTR, Game of Thrones, Walking Dead) are all examples of adaptations that have been wildly successful with fans and critics while varying significantly from the original written works. Unfortunately many (not all) of the things that differentiate The Shannara Chronicles from its source material are ill conceived or poorly executed.

    Sadly for this long time reader, it differs from the book most in it’s inability to generate empathy for the characters. I simply do not care about any of them. Maybe that’s just me. But if not I think this failing will greatly diminish the impact of what is to come. In any case, as you say, I will always have the book.

  4. Major disappointment from a long time fan. I wish I was the minority here, but it seems like I am not. I understand you want to defend your show, but please take to heart the loud and clear message from many of your fans. I’m not calling you a sellout by any means, but I am saying you just are not aware of what a good film adaptation entails. Like many others, I helped to promote this series and had to apologize to many friends. I don’t even want to direct them to the books because if you feel like this is a better representation of that work then so be it. And to quote from a very good adaptation GOT, “Shame, shame, shame…”

  5. Just read your “TV Show Ask Terry” and wanted to let you know, I have been a fan and have Many of the books. I switched to Audio books for most reading now so have ALL books released in audio form. I personnally think you have done an excellent job with the TV show. Sure there are moments I have sat here and said “That not right….” But then I refocus from the the fine points and see the over all and its true to world in a whole and the story is moving along as I expect. Your answers in this Ask Terry was professional and well said. Thanks for all of the entertainment you have given me over the years.

  6. Terry, if you read this, know that it isn’t the story or the changes made that seems to be whats off about the show. It’s the pacing. Even the dialogue, which is iffy at times, and the romantic scenes would benefit greatly if they would just slow down a bit and let the drama and suspense of a great story flow naturally.
    I, for one, am enjoying the show. Even if I find it somewhat flawed at times.

  7. Terry, I’m a huge fan of Shannara. You inspired me to write my own stories. I am thrilled to see your world come to life on screen, however hesitant I was about MTV at first. I’ve only been able to watch the first 3 episodes so far, but right now I’m glad I didn’t get around to rereading Elfstones first. It leaves my mind free of too many expectations, and it will be great to read it afterwards and compare changes.

    I truly hope that more fans are pleased than upset. Unfortunately, disappointment speaks louder and more often, in any fandom. You did warn us it would be different, yet still remain faithful to the core story. I trust you, and you haven’t let me down yet. As long as you are pleased with the outcome, I will judge the TV show for what it is, and enjoy it.

    Already looking forward to season 2, no matter how crazy it gets!

  8. Okay, well see, it’s contradictory statements like this that make me question things:

    “This is a problem, I realize. But I got overruled on that particular scene.” versus “I approved everything and stand accountable for it at the end of the day.”

    He can say he approved everything all he wants, but if changes were made that he argued against, it’s not really true. And that’s a good thing! The more Terry talks about how he had final approval on everything, the worse it makes him look imo. But like I said, I don’t really believe that. I think he’s just playing his role to promote the show and present a united front. Good for him. He’s a team player.

    But he still doesn’t seem to understand why people are complaining about the “gauntlet” scene. How does he reconcile that the winners are called “the chosen” even though no one choses them? Okay, they argue that the tree was helping Amberle, but I would counter that the tree’s advice (i.e. “Get up, Amberle!” and “Jump!”) didn’t actually cause her to win. How did it help her to run faster? How did it help her when she got tripped near the end? Shouldn’t it have warned her or something? How, exactly, did the fleeting words of advice it offered amount to “choosing” her? And since the other winners are also “chosen”, can we assume the tree was speaking to them as well? Why was there no mention of that? And if it was speaking to the people it wanted to be its caretakers, why run the race at all and risk the wrong people crossing the finish line? If you examine the scene at all, you quickly realize it makes no sense. I’m sure they could have come up with something exciting to open the show that also made sense, so no, I’m not going to cut them any slack there.

    • I agree and this illustrates one of the points I made. I have no issue with the show creators desire the amp up the beginning of the TV show. I just don’t like how they went about for the reasons you state above.

  9. The fact that you have a “SPECIAL EDITION: TV SHOW ASK TERRY Q&A”, tells me you must know how much of a failure this TV series is to a large portion of your long time readers.

    This smells like damage control to me. And it doesn’t smell good. I keep hearing that you wanted to keep the bones of the story and characters intact. When is doing the bare minimum acceptable?

    This TV series is an extremely hard slap in the face to this long time reader of your Shannara books.

  10. Hmm… sure the 11 second thingy is partialy true. This can be made in ways to put things at stake. It can be the simplest scene! Though worked through and thougt through. As the gal above stated, its a really horrible scene and makes no sense, read her reasons why its so. As for the beginning it could also be a slower one or some scenes a bit more on edge. Look at True detective season 1 there is nothing “explosive” about the first 3 episodes, and yet one of the best series. Same goes for game of thrones, and yes they are different animals but so is not filmmaking and storytelling.

    “I loved the scene with Wil in the tub and Eretria trying to get the Elfstones off him by allowing him to think she was seducing him.”

    You stating this either you just are defending the show or you are really blind by your own beloved characters and are not able to be objective. Its one of the most cliché scenes ive ever seen and this exact stupidity in the show unfortunatly is the tone in the series thus far. Change that stupid tone and it will not be a legend of the seeker thing.

    The directing has been so bad at times that even JRD, Chapelo guy (who usually is good) and even Manu have been bad actors at times. Thats what happens with bad direction! That goes in hand with the producing!

  11. I am a long time fan like many of you. I really hate that so many people are lashing out at Terry about the show. MTV was never going to make a version of Shannara that would compliment the books. It’s like being mad that MTV’s Teen Wolf is not even a little bit like the Teen Wolf movie from the 80’s. Everyone should calm down and think about why your angry. All the hardcore fans were disappointed by MTV’s numerous changes in plot, character, and excessive promiscuity. My heart sank when I saw the scene where Amberle and Eretria were in the tub.
    It seemed to me like MTV picked up Shannara because of its large fan base, but made a show for people who knew nothing about the books. This made no sense to me, but then my 15 year old son pointed out the obvious. MTV used the large Shannara fan base to promote the show without any intention of creating a product similar to the story we love. Leading up to the show’s premiere, fans like myself were visiting websites and telling their friends about the show. We helped build the hype. But we were not the audience that MTV is trying to attract. They want an audience that will respond to the commercials for products and shows that advertise on MTV. That’s showbiz folks! Don’t be angry with Terry. The show doesn’t hold a candle to the book so try to take the show for what it is and just be glad that you know better.

  12. bmilo529 wrote: “They want an audience that will respond to the commercials for products and shows that advertise on MTV. That’s showbiz folks! Don’t be angry with Terry.”

    The problem is that (in the many months leading up to the pilot) we fans were promised by Shawn, on behalf of Terry, that we didn’t have to worry about the MTV stigma – that it was merely the medium in which the series would air. We were repeatedly told Terry had full control over everything and we just needed to “trust in Terry”. On the forum, many different threads attested to this fact but Shawn has conveniently swept that under the rug since “not enough people were using it” even though the post counts were at its highest (in the middle of the series) in months. (Cough, cough)

    We’re angry because we feel used as advertising vessels that were promised one thing and then were given exactly what we all feared: Shannara High. I think that deserves a little constructive criticism and anger from Terry Brooks fans. But that’s just my opinion…not that it matters.

    • Guitarwez, you are totally right. We, the fan base, were totally used to promote the show and what did we get? A show that took characters we love and twisted them into shallow, pretty forgeries. Personally, I just want to give Terry the benefit of the doubt. I imagine I’d be overwhelmed and excited to see a character I created come to life. I don’t know how much license I’d let a studio take. As far as Shawn goes, I don’t know. It’s his job to support Terry? Maybe? The show is not what I wanted at all. I’d love to see it done right someday but I fear that’s a pipe dream now, especially if this show doesn’t get renewed. Disappointed isn’t a strong enough word. I guess I’m just going to remain hopeful that the show will make a redeeming, amazing turn in the second half of the season and if not my copy of Elfstones is still on the shelf.

  13. guitarwez- “We’re angry because we feel used as advertising vessels that were promised one thing and then were given exactly what we all feared: Shannara High. I think that deserves a little constructive criticism and anger from Terry Brooks fans. But that’s just my opinion…not that it matters.”

    I agree, and it does matter. Shannara High isn’t cutting it for many fans. It’s hard to argue with the latest ratings. The show has lost 20% of its audience from the initial episode to Tuesday’s episode, and seems to be trending lower each week. A little constructive criticism is in order here. I want the show to be successful, as cringeworthy as it is sometimes, and it won’t be if it continues as Shannara High for upcoming seasons. Terry has enough loyal fans around the country and the world that would make the show successful if it was just all of us who watched. But many have been turned off and away by whatever this thing is that has been barfed onto the screen every Tuesday night. The source material Terry has provided is good enough on its own to attract more fans who might not have read the books, without gutting it and leaving just the “bones of the story” for those of us who made it a bestseller in the first place. I understand that changes to a written work need to be made for a different medium and due to budgetary considerations, but some of the stuff being thrown in is just tripe.

    I hope this is taken as constructive criticism and not just me being a “troll” or complainer. Millar and Gough need to take note of some of the fan’s issues with the show and why we are being turned off (if there are any plans at all for a second season), and get back to the tone and soul of the source material a little more. Then the Terry fans will be back to make the show a huge success ala GoT. There’s a reason GoT is getting 8 million viewers every episode on a premium subscription network and TSC only got 800,000 for last week’s episode on basic cable (even though Terry has sold a lot more books than Martin)….adherence to the tone and soul of the source material, and minor changes when needed that didn’t drive away the fans that made the book popular in the first place.

    • Shannara High. I love that name. Now, if the show had started off being called that, I would have known better what to expect. Perhaps the shock would not have been so great.

      I agree that it feels as if we long time Terry Brooks fans were used in a sort of bate and switch marketing scheme. I had some of my friends ready to become brand new fans of Terry’s books, all hyped about the new series, right up to the time when they actually watched this sad parody. Now, please keep in mind, these were people who had not touched a terry brooks novel yet. To paraphrase most of their statements, “You want us to read novels of hundreds of pages of this kind of crap? No way!”

      I’ve waited for years to see Shannara, and particularly Elfstones, appear on the big or small screen. It’s sad that this is what the long time fans get after years of waiting and hoping

      If this season had more than three episodes left, I don’t think I’d stand it long enough to get through. Since I have watched as far as this, I will finish it. But I have little to no hope, and even less expectations, of any great improvement.

  14. Thanks for responding to these questions, Terry. The Shannara Chronicles is great, and please know that this long-time fan of your books also love the tv show just as much.

  15. Thanks for responding to these questions, Terry. The Shannara Chronicles is great, and please know that this long-time fan of your books also loved the tv show just as much.