The fan response to Netflix’s The Witcher was very diverse. From love to hate and everything in between. The aspect that was discussed more than others among fans was the writing and various writing decisions. Showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich offers a look into her practise of hiring writers for the show.
“When writing an adaptation, are the best writers always the ones most familiar with the world?”, she started. “Yes. And equally importantly, no.”
She continued: “Let me back up. When you write an adaptation, you have to be familiar with the original work. Yes. Of course. The writers and staff on The Witcher had to read all of the books, and had to appreciate/enjoy the genre. But I specifically didn’t seek out ten Sapkowski scholars.”
“Instead”, Lauren elaborated, “I found several writers who were intimately familiar with the characters and themes and politics of the Continent. Some grew up with these stories and provided rich detail and insight into not just the books, but the history behind them.”
Lauren then went on to explain why it was vital to also have writers who were a little more distant than, for example, executive producer Tomek Baginski: “it was equally important to have writers in the room who were able to question the “givens” in the books. Who could say, “Why do people hate the elves so much?” or “Wait, I still don’t understand Ciri’s bloodline. How do we examine it in a clearer way for the tv audience?”‘
She added: “In simplest form, we need writers fighting for the spirit of the books, and the intention of the author. And also writers who know that novels can’t be a 1:1 adaptation to tv, because characters can’t speak for hours on end without interruption (lookin at you Geralt and Iola.)”
Finally, Lauren concluded: “We need writers who are close, but not too close. Who love the world, but aren’t afraid to question it. Who are fans, but are willing to step back and open their minds, in order to bring their beloved world to our real (big) one. I hope we did that.”
Earlier, Lauren offered a look into her other criteria for hiring The Witcher‘s writing staff.
“When hiring writers for The Witcher, there were several factors I looked at to make sure we were getting the best possible team. In no particular order:
- A spectrum of writing experience: people who’d been at it for 20 years and those who were brand new. It’s part of my job to mentor the next generation of writers, just as I was once trained. But I also need people who know television structure and production inside and out.
- A spectrum of life experience. This is where diversity comes in. A POC has different experiences than a white person; men different than women; straight different than gay. Add in immigrants, adoptees, parents, the list goes on. Varied life experiences make the show richer.
- A spectrum of genre experience. Everyone had to read and love the books. But we needed more than hardcore fantasy nerds. I hired writers with experience in horror, action, romance, politics. The Witcher is many things. There is only one Sapkowski, who is good at them all.
- No assholes. There’s not a spectrum there. Don’t be a dick.
- And finally, talented writers…as defined by me. I read writers blind (without their names) first. Either the writing grabbed me, or it didn’t. If it did, it went in a “yes please” pile. Once I had that pile, I looked at all the other qualifications above and made my choice.
The Witcher Season 2 is currently halted, but work is underway to resume filming in the coming weeks. Find out more about that here.