On The Vampire Diaries

The War between the States

By Claudia Gray

The online protests began around the time the makers of The Vampire Diaries cast Nina Dobrev as Elena Gilbert. Were fans of the book series worried that Dobrev couldn’t carry the central role? Nope. Were they advocating for another fan-favorite candidate? No again. There was no way Dobrev could play Elena–because Dobrev is a brunette, and in the original L.J. Smith books, Elena is a blonde.

It seems like a pretty small thing to get upset about, but when it comes to adapting a beloved book into film or television, fans understandably dread the inevitable changes. We’ve all been burned before by books that got “dumbed down” or turned into something unrecognizable from the story we originally loved. Even alterations as minor as a character’s hair color set off warning bells, making those of us who loved the books wonder just what else was about to get changed. But as The Vampire Diaries shows, those changes can definitely be for the best.

What works dramatically in print isn’t necessarily what works dramatically on television, and the creators of the TV show seem to have figured out precisely what they needed to alter in order to bring Elena and the Salvatore brothers to the small screen. The first season of the series is dynamic on almost every level, in large part because of the changes the creators made to accommodate the new storytelling format.

Let’s just take one example to start with: Jeremy Gilbert.

Elena’s younger brother didn’t exist  …

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