The Witcher On Netflix
The Witcher is an epic fantasy adventure filled with magic, monsters, and romance. It is based on books written by the Polish author Andrzej Sapkowskiare, as well as a video game series. It’s an excellent example of how to adapt an original source.
Here are 7 adaptation lessons from The Witcher … Enjoy!
(SPOILER ALERT – If you have not watched or read the books, be aware there may be some in this post).
LESSON #1: Add more PoVs to Make It More Interesting
Geralt of Rivia is the main character of The Witcher, both in the books and the games. However, the show does something very interesting. It does not make Geralt (Henry Cavill) the sole PoV character of the series.
Instead, audiences follow Geralt, sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra), and princess Ciri (Freya Allan). By spreading out the PoVs, it allows the audience to gain a greater understanding of the world at large, along with a deeper understanding of the trouble within the continent.
SUMMING UP: Do not hesitate to play with several PoVs. Adding them can improve the characters, plot and story.
LESSON #2: Add More Backstory To Secondary Characters
In the books, Yennefer’s past isn’t talked about too much. In contrast, the show explores Yennefer’s past in great detail. This allows us to get to know her better. It makes for much more complete character audiences can relate to.
SUMMING UP: Adding more backstory to secondary characters allows you to give them deeper, meaningful arcs. It can make them multi-level characters instead of flat ones.
LESSON #3: Add More Layers To Your Characters Generally
Geralt is a loner figure who finds himself having to take care of Ciri as a father figure for her. In the books, Geralt’s parenting of Ciri is a bit bumbling and careless, showing he’s yet to understand what being a father is. He mostly tries to find a way for a woman to become Ciri’s mentor.
While in the show we still see his search for a mentor for her, this time he is more in control as a father. The reason he asks different women to mentor Ciri is so she can protect herself when the time comes. In that sense, Geralt is more of a forward-thinker than a bumbling father. It allows his character to have more layers.
SUMMING UP: You can take the same events and characters, but make them more focused so the character’s motivations are more nuanced.
LESSON #4: Add Humour!
Most of the characters in The Witcher are serious brooding types because the plotting events are dark and sinister. In such a climate viewers need some comic relief.
This is done fantastically with the secondary character, Jaskier the Bard. Whilst he appears in the books, his part is much more minor. In the TV show, he is flamboyant and loud, but also charming, stealing every scene he appears in. I dare you watch him sing his songs, especially Toss a coin to The Witcher without having that song stuck in your head for days!
SUMMING UP: Make sure you have a character that can lighten up the story so that viewers can cheer to when s/he appears.
LESSON #5: Don’t Be Afraid To Invent New Characters
After Ciri escapes the Nilfgaardian siege on Cintra, she is assisted by a young elf boy named Dara. However, Dara is an entirely new character created for the Netflix series.
In novels, we can explore the inner world of emotions and thoughts of a character. This is not possible on screen. ‘What you see is what you get’ in screenwriting, after all!
A great way to overcome this is by creating a character that the main character can speak to and in this way reveal their thoughts and emotions. By adding Dara we are able to follow Ciri’s journey and have someone she can talk to and mirror her experiences.
SUMMING UP: Add a character that can help us learn about the inner world of an important character. (Just don’t overdo it so they’re ONLY there to ‘break open’ that character! For more about this issue, CLICK HERE).
LESSON #6: Keep It VISUAL
The Season 1 finale of The Witcher centres on the clash between mages and Nilfgaardian soldiers at the Battle of Sodden Hill. This is where Yennefer and her fellow magic-users fight to defend their lands from the army’s assault.
The Battle of Sodden Hill gives viewers a series of dramatic scenes packed with high fantasy action. It also brings together all three main characters in one place, hinting at the changes they will go through in future episodes.
In the books however, the Battle of Sodden Hill is depicted in the aftermath of it. We don’t get to read what took place.
SUMMING UP: Make sure to use a visual element from the source material to its maximum effect. This way you can turn it into a pivotal moment, even if it’s not in the original.
LESSON #7: Play with Timelines to Create Suspense
One of the most interesting parts of Season 1 of The Witcher is timing … It’s only in the last episode we realise we have been watching different timelines of the story, NOT a parallel one.
The first season is based on several short stories which span over centuries. The writers had to play with the timelines in order to introduce all the main characters while introducing us to the world building of the content all in the first season.
SUMMING UP: Though playing with timelines might be confusing, if done right can elevate the suspense and be intriguing. MORE: The Witcher writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach: ‘Lost Was NOT Purgatory!’ (And Other Tales)
Which of the lessons from The Witcher adaptation can you use in your writing? Let us know in the comment box below!
BIO: Vered Neta is a proof that you’re never too old to start something new. She says she already had three past lives in this lifetime. After 28 years of being a trainer and working with over 150,000 people all over the world, she started a new career as a screenwriter, author and script reader. She wrote 2 screenplays and a musical. These days she is working on a documentary and a novel based on one of her screenplays and have started a YouTube TV program called #GoodLifeRedefined. You can find more on website www.veredneta.com.