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A Soulless Main Character

The Native hunter thanks the animal he just killed. He saws his knife through the flesh of the young buck from anus through the sternum up to its neck. After he guts the animal, he skins it, breaks down the fat, bones and joints, and slices it into varying cuts of meat. Once finished, the animal is unrecognizable, but will feed and clothe the hunter’s family. 

How much can you hack away at a thing until it is no longer that thing? This is the question swimming around my mind as I read, for the first time, “Miss. Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children.” 

Admittedly, I watched the movie first. Bad move. I know.

I don’t remember much of the film. I fell asleep. But I do remember the main characters, one of whom was completely swapped with a different character from the book!

Emma Bloom is most certainly not the levitating girl. 
Emma can make flames in the palm of her hand. 
Emma, the girl who makes fire, not the girl who floats, is the one who loves Jacob and his grandfather.

So again I ask, how much can we cut away from a book and maintain its integrity in the film? Hacking up the main characters is not one of those things. 

I’ve been doing a great deal of daydreaming about the characters in my own book, their roles, their appearances, their arcs and what drives them. My main character, Jayne, for example. I picture her as a white female (because I am white. I think it’s common for people to put themselves in the shoes of their MCs). 

However, if ever there was a film adaptation, the writer and director could take away Jayne’s entire appearance (or how I see her) and I wouldn’t be mad about it. If you left her backstory, her growth, her gifts and abilities, she would still be Jayne. She could be black, Indian, Native American, Asian, Latina. It honestly wouldn’t matter to the story line. So long as she’s a timid 13-year-old girl with a mysterious magical gift, whose parents are vegan hipsters from Portland, Ore., she would still be Jayne. 

And then I think of myself. How much of myself could I let the world strip away for me to no longer be me? 

Strip away my kindness and typically good-natured spirit.
Strip away my thoughts, opinions, beliefs, faith.
Strip away my time to create by way of busyness or desire to keep up.
Strip away my confidence because of my appearance or gender.

Movie Emma Bloom was basically stripped of her soul. The film writer and director could have changed anything superficial about the character (or better yet, left her alone). But they unforgivably took away her fiery spirit and powerful nature. 

If ever I get to the point of having my book made into a film, I will stand on my hind legs like the mama bear that I am to protect my characters’ souls. Really, to protect my soul.

Before the Native hunter kills an animal, he asks the creature if he can. After he’s made a kill, he shows respect to the animal’s spirit through ceremony and prayer. The hunter knows that even when he takes the animal’s life, removes its entrails, strips it of its hide and consumes its flesh, its spirit and soul remain intact.

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