From the pilot script, it is obvious that a few details concerning the town, characters and the story itself have changed. The character of Meredith Sulez was once believed to be eliminated, but Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec say her character will be appearing later.
Another controversial change made between the book and television series, or at least the one that has caused the most discussion, is the casting of Nina Dobrey as Elena Gilbert. Dobrey is a brown-eyed brunette while Gilbert has always been known as a blue-eyed blonde.
The Shows Characters:
In a script for the pilot, the surname Whitmore was originally used for Stefan and Damon. The name was switched back to the Salvatore name of the books once the show was given the green light. In the books, Stefan and Damon were born in Florence, Italy and came from the Renaissance period. In the television series, they are from Civil War-era Mystic Falls, Virginia.
In the book, the character of Bonnie was originally named Bonnie McCullough and she was a white, redheaded descendent of the Scottish Druids. For the television series, she became Bonnie Bennett, a black woman who is descended from the Salem witches.
In the books, it was Vicki Bennett and Matt Honeycutt. However, the names were changed to Vicki and Matt Donovan in order to make them siblings for the television series.
The Tyler Lockwood of the television series was originally called Tyler Stratton in the Pilot script and is originally named Tyler Smallwood in the books. The executive producers say that change was made in order to make the family sound more like old money.
Caroline Forbes was originally Caroline Truitt in the original Pilot script, but the original Forbes surname was changed once the show was aired. In the books, Caroline is a sly, selfish and bitchy character that starts out as Elena’s enemy. In the television series, Caroline is a far nicer character that is more bubbly and is still friends with Elena.
In the books, the legal guardian to Elena is a paternal aunt named Judith Gilbert, but in the television series, this was changed to a maternal aunt, Jenna Sommers.
Katherine was the daughter of a German named Baron von Swartzschild who sent her to Florence to improve her health in the books. However, in the television series she is an American named Pierce that is pretending to be from Atlanta and a war orphan.
In the books, Tyler’s father was referred to as Mr. Smallwood and was said to be a lawyer. The town’s mayor was named Dawley. For the television series, Tyler’s father became Mayor Charles Lockwood.
For the television series, Caroline’s mother is Sheriff Forbes who was abandoned by her husband for a male lover. In the books, Caroline’s mother was simply Mrs. Forbes who lived with her husband, daughter and son, Daniel. The sheriff in the books was named Mossberg.
The Shows Setting:
In the book, the fictional town was called Fell’s Church, Virginia and then became Mystic Falls, Virginia in the television series. According to Julie Plec, the original name couldn’t get legal clearance. However, some fans believe that since the books and television series have distinct differences the name may also have been changed to fully set the show apart from the book since the L.J. Smith book series is still continuing.
In the books, the school is called Robert E. Lee High School, but in the television series, it was changed to Mystic Falls High School. The school football team was also changed from the Wildcats in the book to the Timberwolves in the television series.
L.J. Smith’s Thoughts on the Show:
On her official website, the author is quoted as saying she doesn’t have an opinion about the television version of the books. However, in her blogs she has had misgivings about the show. Smith frequently cites the excessive use of drugs in the pilot script as being a major disappointment. Although Smith adds, “I suppose everyone must be allowed to have their own versions of the characters and the story. And if I can say that to readers then I can say that to the small gods of the TV pilot.”
Smith finally gave a stamp of approval to the pilot episode on May 28 even though she hadn’t seen it yet. Rather, Smith referred to the opinion of her agent Elizabeth who seen the pilot at a viewing in New York.
Smith posted a more definite statement on August 27 on her blog, saying:
“…the TV people (sounds like the title of a horror film) have been really, really nice to me lately, sharing news and Vampire Diaries (TV) clippings and I now stand behind the show. I’m hoping that everyone will give it a chance – the first episode being the hardest to get past if you’re not a Twilight fan. Or maybe if you are. Anyway, I’m asking that people be patient with it and see if it does turn out to be adorable.”
Then on September 22, as part of the 2009 Simon and Schuster’s Blogfest, Smith again had something to say about the show and the many changes that were made:
“I think they’re doing a great job of interpreting the books for a mainstream teen audience… who just happen to like vampires. I was scared myself about the drugs, but Elena is a champion against them and that is very important to me. She is both strong and gentle, and who cares if she’s not blond? I will go on writing her as a blond goddess with a bit more edge, and the TV show will at least have some of my ideals… I’ll try to explain about some of the changes. It was felt that a typical teen audience wouldn’t sympathize with Italians as well as Americans. I didn’t and don’t agree, but who am I? I’m listed as “Source” in the credits. The reason they made the boys Civil War era guys was because there was so much all ready about Fell’s Church of the Civil War (the high school name, the Cemetery, etc.) And if the guys are not Italian it made sense for them to have been from the same Civil War town… I must admit I have some mixed feelings about the pilot, too, but the cinematography’s great, the music is great, the character chemistry is great, the acting is (with one exception) great. And finally, PLEASE understand that I didn’t make one of these changes. They were all made by Kevin [Williamson] and Les [Morgenstein] and Julie [Plec], and so please don’t blame me. I am just another grunt who works here.”