#IWSG: When a Book becomes a Film – who’s the Writer?

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. It’s an opportunity to talk about doubts and fears you have conquered. To discuss your struggles and triumphs and to offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.


This month, I’m skipping the optional question because I finally caught up with Greta Gerwig’s film Little Women over the Easter break, and it caused me to ask the question: when a book becomes a film – who’s the writer?

In the opening sequence of the film, I saw the words written by Greta Gerwig flash up on my screen – and I was startled. Having previously worked in the film industry, I’d always understood that when adapting a book for screen, one would be credited for either the screenplay, the script, an adaptation, even a treatment, while including a nod to the writer of the original book upon which you’d based your screenplay/script/adaptation/treatment.

I got a further surprise when seeing that IMDB also gives Gerwig not only Directorial accreditation, but lists her as Writer – ahead of Louisa May Alcott.

Now, Little Women is a book I’ve long loved and, while I won’t claim to know it word-for-word, I have recently listened to sections of the audio book, so can state that entire sections of the film’s dialogue were identical to Alcott’s novel. As what Gerwig did was to tell the story with a feminist twist, surely this is but a treatment of the original novel – clever, but still just a treatment? I would not hesitate to credit her for writing the screenplay, but it doesn’t sit well with me for her to cast herself, or be cast. as The Writer.

What say you my fellow writers? Have the rules about adaptations to novels changed? Is there something I’m missing?

The awesome co-hosts this month are Kim Elliott, Melissa Maygrove, Chemist Ken, Lee Lowery, and Nancy Gideon!– do take a moment to visit them.


While you’re here, can I tempt you with a #FlashFiction prompt?

Every month, we run a different #FF prompt and this month it’s Paranoia.

If you’re inspired to give this a go, you can get full details here.


© Debra Carey, 2022

Author: debscarey

Tweets @debsdespatches My personal blog is Debs Despatches, where I ramble on a variety of topics. I write fiction on co-hosted site Fiction Can Be Fun, where my #IWSG reflections can be found; and my Life Coaching business can be found on DebsCarey.com.

11 thoughts on “#IWSG: When a Book becomes a Film – who’s the Writer?”

  1. A quick Google search reveals that Little Women is in the public domain, and if true, anyone can use the material. Issues arise for purposes of copyright. Gerwig may be able to call herself the “writer” legally, but cannot copyright verbatim passages lifted from Alcott’s original work. There’s a definite “ick” factor here, though.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lee, you’ve got my feelings in one. I presume the legality of it was checked out, but there’s a decided ick factor about it. I’d like to admire her, and this kinda holds me back.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, talk about being aggressively bold ( I had something else in mind, but thought it was a bit inappropriate, so Google gave me a better alternative 😉 ). I haven’t watched the movie yet, it’s on my “I still want to watch this” list. I mean, even Jane Austen’s stuff when reimagined is credited to her, e.g. Bride and Prejudice says “inspired by” in the credits. Otherwise we can all take stuff that’s out of copyright and publish it as our own…

    Ronel visiting for IWSG day Culling the To-Do List and the TBR

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yup Ronel, I was a lot more aggresive in my first draft on this subject! It made me feel so bad, and I don’t want to feel this way towards a fellow writer, but….

      Liked by 2 people

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