Looking For Alaska & Character Expansion

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In John Green’s Looking for Alaska, Miles (a.k.a. Pudge) has just moved to Culver Creek and wandered into a world of hard studying and harder pranks at his new boarding school. Now, all he has is a bunch of famous last words. The reader, like Pudge, is exposed to the world of Culver Creek including drinking, smoking, romantic struggles, and Alaska’s (Pudge’s classmate) larger-than-life personality. Things all change for Pudge after Alaska, and now you can view this tale on-screen.

How will I ever get out of this labyrinth.”

The television adaptation of Looking for Alaska recently came out on Hulu. One of the biggest questions people had was how are they going to get eight hours of television out of 220 pages. Well, character expansion is how. I know most people tend to freak out when adaptations starts to alter source material, but in this case, it’s done in a smart and interesting way. Two characters get some serious expansion: the religion professor and the Eagle. 

Readers of the original book may wonder why an antagonistic force and an over-watching one are the characters that expanded. I think this was a genius idea because it accomplished two things really well. It allows for extra screen time without adding scenes to the main characters that might damage them. This then allows for interpretation and advancement in characters that were less developed in the base novel. The Eagle turns from a man who just seemed comical in his commitment to his job, has this flaw pointed out and loses his marriage. The religious professor is given a deep and painful loss, which he is able to use as a way to connect and help Pudge and the Cornel.  These characters are given more depth and history, which makes them feel more real. The actions they do take in the world have more weight than in the book due to the quality their new backstories were given. I hope future creators take the expansions seen here as a roadmap on how to do this in the future. 

PRR Writer, Jon Kresal 

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