5 Ways True Blood Strayed From the Books (and why it worked)

By Brandi McCormick on May 4, 2012 to True Blood

As an avid reader of the books, I often find myself having to put up a mental partition in my brain–one side for “book knowledge” and one side for “show knowledge” while watching the show. It’s harder than it sounds, trust me. But when you come into a TV show that adapts an entire book series into 12-episode seasons, picking and choosing which storylines to stick where, it can become a muddled nightmare in your mind trying to discern what you already know and what you think you know. True Blood has done a beautiful job of constructing a series that is both familiar to those of us who’ve read the books, while still maintaining a sense of mystery and intrigue for those storylines they decide to take some creative liberty with. I’d like to break down a few of the biggest changes from book-to-screen that True Blood has taken on, and instead of critiquing why they didn’t work (as the bookworm inside of me is so wont to do), diving into all of the reasons those changes have made True Blood a much better show.

Lafayette dies

You heard that right. The firecracker of sassy wit that is Lafayette Reynolds kicks the bucket at the very end of the first book. The season 2 opener follows the end of Dead Until Dark very faithfully, in that Sookie finds a dead body in a cop car in the parking lot of Merlotte’s. However, instead of it being Tara’s cousin Lafayette, it’s Tara’s voodoo exorcist, Miss Jeanette. (Side note: in the books, Tara and Lafayette aren’t even related!)

Could you imagine a Bon Temps without Lafayette? I think this deviation from the books was a smart move for the simple fact that Lafayette (show version) is an increasingly interesting character. With every boyfriend, with every season, a new layer of his past is revealed. Out of all the characters that have come and gone on True Blood, Lafayette is one of the most fleshed out. He’s a perfect balance of totally screwed up and hilarious comic relief. Few other characters on the show pull off both of those roles so beautifully.

Keeping him around gives Tara (another deviation from the book) actual motive for a lot of her actions. He’s the only real family she’s that she can count on. Tara’s character in the books is but a mere background character; her and Lafayette both needed to be created from scratch practically, and the writers made a smart move by giving the two of them one of the strongest connections on the show. Not to mention, Nelsan Ellis and Rutina Wesley are fantastic together.

Jessica Hamby doesn’t exist 

This is possibly my favorite deviation that has come out of the True Blood television show. Jessica Hamby, Bill’s sexy redheaded progeny doesn’t even exist in the books. Not at all.

Normally I would balk at the idea of just inventing characters willy-nilly, however, Jessica is one of the most enticing characters to come out of the show since its inception. She’s the only “baby vampire” that we’ve really gotten to witness grow up and become accustomed to vampire life. She experiences first hand the discrimination of humans against vampires while trying to tame her own beastly instincts. Inventing Jessica not only gives us a different way to experience vampire living, but it’s also a very nice way to connect both living and undead worlds–her struggle to have a normal life, to date humans, to play the doting girlfriend–these are all things that are inherently human and easy to relate to as an audience. She also exists to give Bill some sort of purpose. Aside from pining over Sookie and looking morose, he finally has a family connection that was lost when he was turned during the war. Bill and Jessica’s relationship has done wonders to soften Bill and make him more amiable as a character, and Jessica’s growing loyalty to him is one of the aspects of her character that makes her not just a wretched, cheating monster, but an interesting character to watch grow.

Godric is not Eric’s Maker

In Harris’ books, Godric (or “Godfrey”) is merely a 1,000 year old vampire who was best known for being a child molester and serial killer (rough, I know). It’s this terrible life of sin and horror that is the catalyst behind him choosing to Meet the Sun. Though the show was faithful in the way that Godric met his true death, the entire storyline of him as Eric Northman’s maker was orchestrated by the show’s writers. I think this was a bloody brilliant (no pun intended) move on their part to seamlessly weave together the story of his that we know from the books with the story from the show–this is that fine line of book & show knowledge I mentioned earlier. Making him Eric’s maker is one of the most solid choices the show has done, as it’s the most human we’ve seen of Eric throughout the entire series. The scene on the rooftop where Eric is begging Godric to not Meet the Sun is one of the most heartbreaking scenes True Blood has ever produced. The loyalty that Eric shows is both one of his weakest and strongest traits–he is blinded by his loyalty to an extent that he would risk everything for him. Out of all the stoic vampires that come and go, Eric has the Viking stoicism down pat. But to see that there is still something out there that would render him a blubbering mess is a nice change of pace, and a great way to make the character that much more 2-dimensional. This story did nothing if not prove that not all vampires are devoid of emotion and are capable of feeling true love and true pain.

Jesus doesn’t exist either

In a recurring theme from the writer’s behind True Blood, Jesus Velasquez is yet another character who does not exist in the book series. I feel like this is an obvious one–Jesus is just freaking fantastic. After a slew of hits and misses on Lafayette’s part, he finally meets his (in my opinion) soulmate in his mother’s nurse, Jesus. Aside from the obvious implications this had for Lafayette’s character, bringing Jesus into the fold introduced us to a new mystery the show was diving head first into–witchcraft. This felt like such natural introduction to that plot, and one that would later come in super handy when Lafayette is discovered to be a medium. The two of them together also represent a solid relationship, something the show is usually totally lacking in. They were to be in it for the long haul (if not for that Marnie bitch).

And as True Blood is so adept at representing, it’s entire premise is one big allegory to the LGBT struggles of this nation–“God hates fangs,” no Vampire-human marriages, etc. To find two incredibly strong individuals who represent the human aspect of the show and the gay aspect as well, True Blood had struck a goldmine. Jesus was sent to show Lafayette love and stability, but to also show us his true nature–a discovery that might not have happened at all without him.

Tara is not a main character

Oh Tara Thornton exists in the books, but like I said before, she’s barely even blip on the Bon Temps map. She’s always there in the peripherals of Sookie’s life, but she is in no way as integral a part as she is on the TV show. This is one of the few times where I really wonder how Tara’s role in the books isn’t exactly like her role on the show. I can’t imagine Sookie without a (human) best friend. And that’s precisely why I think keeping Tara around and making her central to Sookie’s life is imperative to the story. Sookie is already isolated, and really has been her whole life. Her gift, and now her knack for hanging around the dangerous supernatural crowd has caused her to be an outsider, always on the cusp of normal life. Having Tara exist to be there as Sookie’s one true human pillar of support (besides her brother) is necessary to keep Sookie grounded in the real world. She needs someone she can count on–daytime, nighttime, anytime–and one that couldn’t care less about her fairy blood or mindreading powers. Not to mention the connection I previously discussed between her and Lafayette. Tara is all around a sassy, honest portrayal of the friend everyone needs somewhere in their life (I mean, she did take a bullet for Sookie, didn’t she? Weep.).

Naturally, these are not the only ways the television show has differed from Harris’ books, but in order to keep this short (and not nitpick the differences into oblivion), I chose a few key plot moves and shakers that I feel really enhanced the dynamic of the show. Sure there are characters that haven’t shown up yet (Quinn, anyone?), people who met their ends prematurely (Queen Sophie-Anne, Claudine), but alas, those things are bound to happen. Casualties of TV adaptation, if you will.

What do you think? Do you agree? Do you wish they would stick more closely with the books or are you a fan of the TV-only storylines they’ve been cooking up?

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  • Targaryen

    They made Arlene a better person in the TV show. Unless they plan on changing her to be more like the later books in future seasons.

    Jason also becomes a werepanther or man-panther when he is bitten over and over. In the books having many bites from a ‘were’ can turn you to a half man half animal (They cant shift into a full animal), but in the show they say it can’t be done. They changed some of the breeding rules from the books to the show also.

    I kinda like having the show and books being so vastly different after season 1 because at least I don’t know everything that happens just from watching the show. The show pretty much keeps 5% of the story from the later books. But I did like some of the character changes, mostly Lafayette he makes the show.

  • Skye

    One problem, godrick is Eric’s maker in the book. It was one of the main reasons he died, sookie killed him because as Eric’s maker Eric was forced to do whatever godrick told him to do. And his being alive was threatening to the both of them.

    • Targaryen

      Erics maker in the books is Appius Livius Ocella.

      Godric is his maker in the show.

      Appius Livius Ocella is not killed by Sookie in the books.

    • Ryry

      You’re thinking of Lorena and bill, so so Sookie killed Lorena, Godric killed himself. He wasn’t Eric’s maker

  • Cam

    That is a lie about Lafayette i just finished the first and he doesn’t die

    • Jessica

      It’s actually the beginning of the second book.

    • Targaryen

      You only see him alive in the first book. He’s dead from the very start of the second book. He’s only referred to, you never see him again after book 1.

  • tina

    I can’t believe that Lafayette was killed in the first book and Tara wasnt even close to him. I am also annoyed by those who don’t seem to like Tara. I understand, I can’t stand Tara at times but do I want her dead, nope. I just want her to get stronger and not be so emotional. But lets remember, she got the worse treatment in the show. Raped by a vampire,glamoured remember and kept prisoner, I would love to know how any of the tara haters would act if they were in that situation. If anything its Sookie who I can’t stand, choosing a boyfriend who she hasnt been with that long versus her bestfriend since childhood, not just tara but her brother and friends around her and yet tara still took a bullet for her. Tara just needs to calm herself.

  • Sheldon

    Brandi thanks for the thoughtful post! I am in the middle of a possible breakup with TB at the moment but I can still see that lafayette and jess were great changes from the core SSN storylines and have given the audience some brilliant stuff to enjoy

    Jesus and Tara I can take or leave to be honest. Sometimes the side stories take up valuable time better spent on the main plots and main characters. This is one of my main bugbears with TB

    I’d like to suggest two of my favourite changes and were instrumental in two of the best plots on TB:

    Russell Edginton – minor in CD but major awesomeness in TB S3. He killed every scene and left me wanting more

    Rev Steve Newlin; I love that crazy MF. The whole FOTS story arc was made of win and linked into the dallas SL nicely. He had some of the best lines in the whole series and the interplay btwn him, his wife and Jason was awesome. Sigh, I miss that

    I can’t wait for more Russell and Vamp Stev in S5

  • Carl

    I’ve never read the books and believe the show is one of the worst things currently on television, so I’m obviously not the target audience for this article. But I just have to say one thing: Tara is an objectively horrible character, and watching her get a bullet in the head almost justified wasting fourty-eight hours of my life watching this terrible show. So it goes without saying that I heavily disagree with the last one.

    • Angie

      Wow, what time you must have on your hands to watch an entire series that you don’t even like and also search the web for more info on the series you hate and books you haven’t read, and to comment about it! This just strikes me as very odd, I suggest you use your time more wisely in the future :-)

  • Nina

    Starting the series over again, I’m reminded how much I don’t care for Tara’s story lines — voodoo exorcisms and the entire season of the maenad are really annoying in comparison to what we get from sookie’s perspective in the books. I will be fine if they get rid of Tara this season but would be interested in seeing her become a (miserable) vampire too.

    I would love to see Quinn this season. And IF they kill off Tara, I really enjoy Amelia from the books.

  • Roberta

    I Agree keeping Lafayette was a good Decision. ANd jessica and jesus is fine too. But I hate what they did with Godric being Erics maker espeically with where the books go later.

    I HATE HATE HATE Tara’s story line. They have her as this weak, pissed off, idiotic mess. I liked that Tara Had her own shop and had done far better than her Crazy alcholic (and DEAD) parents. Yes in the books tara does some very stupid things. BUT frankly the Franklin/Tara story line was ridiculous. It was done FAR FAR FAR better in the book. ANd I think would have worked far better in the show.

  • Dark Phoenyx

    I loved Jesus, about Jessica I could care less.

  • Mony

    I agree with what you wrote. Both Jessica and Lafayette were probably the only two good deviations from the books i really loved.
    Unfortunately i can’t say the same about Tara’s character but TB Sookie is not the independent woman i love in the books so i guess she needed a friend like Tara in the show. I just wished they gave her a better storyline and maybe she stopped be so angry and pissed off with everyone. It was cool the first 2 season…then it got boring and annyoing. This is just my opinion btw.
    I loved Jesus and i’m really sorry for Lafayette’s loss :(

    Now….i’d like to read “5 ways TB didn’t stay with books and IT DIDN’T WORK.” LOL.

  • Jefd

    Very nice piece. I always wondered how thiw show was different from the books after I had found out that Layfayette didn’t survive book 1.

    I like you enjoy the reading experience but having never read Harris’ work I am not a conflicted viewer of the series. Just think of it as an alternative universe Bon Temps and continue to enjoy when Season 5 starts. .










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