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Twice Upon a Time: 4 Reasons to Write Books Based on Classic Literature

Twice Upon a Time: 4 Reasons to Write Books Based on Classic Literature

Originality is overrated. Uncover 4 causes it is best to attempt tapping into the richness of literary historical past by writing books based mostly on basic literature.


The yr 2018 marked the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s science-fiction basic Frankenstein was first revealed. Her story of making new life turned a sensation, capturing the imaginations of storytellers and filmmakers the world over and galvanizing dozens of latest tales and variations. Some are straight retellings of the unique plot, whereas others take the idea of Frankenstein’s monster in a utterly totally different course—assume Herman Munster within the 1960s tv collection The Munsters, or Lurch the butler in The Addams Household.

The literary canon has endured the passage of time and impressed writers for generations—even to the current day, with modern novelists like Helen Fielding, Dean Koontz, Curtis Sittenfeld and others commonly drawing from the classics. When trendy writers replace these enduring tales and inform them in a refreshing method, they’re paying homage to the beloved unique whereas capitalizing on its complexity and potential. As such, there are quite a few causes to contemplate pulling out your previous highschool studying record and plundering these books in your personal story’s stimuli. Listed here are 4 of probably the most outstanding advantages.

Twice Upon a Time: 4 Reasons to Write Books Based on Classic Literature

1. Robust Scaffolding

Many of those tales have efficiently endured for a cause: They’ve vibrant characters, robust battle and fascinating story arcs. By updating these tales and telling them in a new approach, writers can capitalize on the literary power of the unique story.

Take, as an example, Jane Austen’s magnum opus: Satisfaction and Prejudice. Together with her sharp wit and unbiased spirit, Elizabeth Bennet was a groundbreaking character when the novel debuted in 1813. Bennet’s charisma, in addition to the drama surrounding her household, her romance with Mr. Darcy, and the formal English society of the interval, has thus served because the mannequin for a number of makeovers.

Imitating the Masters: How to Develop Character and Tone By means of Imitation

Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible, revealed in April 2016, is aligned to the unique plot of Satisfaction and Prejudice however takes place in trendy occasions. Liz is a profitable 30-something journal author who returns to her hometown of Cincinnati to assist look after her aged father, solely to discover her household coming aside on the seams. However after a good-looking physician—recent from an look on a actuality TV present—and his neurosurgeon pal flip up at a pal’s barbecue, Liz’s world is turned the wrong way up. By way of the remainder of the e-book, the love story performs out, drawing on Austen’s themes from begin to end. Even so, the novel is so infused with Sittenfeld’s personal voice and present-day updates that it stands on its personal as an enticing, humorous
commentary on trendy society and tradition, even interesting to followers who’ve by no means picked up an Austen novel.

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding stands as yet one more re-interpretation of Delight and Prejudice—this model set in ’90s London, with protagonist Bridget serving as an Elizabeth Bennet manifestation, and her household, just like the Bennets, serving as one of many fundamental sources of Bridget’s mortification. The humor is ridiculous, the conditions exaggerated, and Fielding’s interpretation infuses Austen’s basic with modernized novelty to hilarious finish. By taking the tough construction of Satisfaction and Prejudice and giving it a 21st-century makeover (or late 20th, in Fielding’s case), these authors used the Regency novel and its seminal foremost character to create one thing authentically their very own—and of their occasions.

2. Timeless Concepts

“There are no new stories.” How typically have you ever heard that previous adage? Whether or not or not you consider it’s true, there’s little argument to be made: Making an attempt to assume up a utterly unique plot is a near-impossible process. There’s a cause literary brokers ask for comparative titles in queries—as a result of each manuscript has a comp, in a single facet or one other.

Sitting in entrance of a clean doc and making an attempt to engineer a story from skinny air can be intimidating. By placing your personal twist on one which already exists, there’s a template for the plot in place from the get-go, decreasing the strain of conjuring one thing from scratch and permitting you as an alternative to focus on infusing your personal voice and calculated nuance. (For hands-on tips on how to do that, see “The Imitation Game.”) Contemplate it teamwork: Ron Chernow wrote the meticulously researched biography Alexander Hamilton, nevertheless it was playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda who used the historic textual content as inspiration for a smash-hit musical about variety, perseverance and standing up for what you consider in. You’d by no means accuse Miranda of plagiarizing or ripping off Chernow, however the connective tissue between the 2 works is plain.

Whereas good novels act as a time capsule of the interval during which they have been written, the really nice works of literature are transcendent—their themes common and prophetic. Frankenstein first got here to Shelley in a dream when she was solely 18 years previous. The textual content itself imagines what may occur once we push the boundaries of scientific discovery. It explores the essence of life, what it means to be human, the place the boundaries of scientific ethics blur, and the way it feels to be totally different and alone on the planet.

Storytellers since have retold Frankenstein in numerous artistic methods. Dean Koontz wrote a collection of Shelley-inspired novels set in present-day New Orleans, by which his Victor Frankenstein facsimile, Victor Helios, forges new life-forms (androids with flesh) utilizing trendy applied sciences, particularly artificial biology. An episode of “The X-Files” had a modern take on the story as nicely, utilizing the idea as a car to remark on the risks of genetic engineering.

Immediately, audiences proceed to discover the concepts behind Frankenstein intriguing as a result of the ebook attracts on so many uncooked feelings and moral questions: Younger individuals may relate to the monster’s anger and worry at feeling misunderstood and alone on the planet. It raises problems with prejudice, rife in trendy society, and there’s big scope for exploring how individuals react to those that are “different.” Questions surrounding the ethics of DNA manipulation and genetic engineering—extremely pertinent with ongoing breakthroughs in gene modifying—additionally make trendy retellings of Shelley’s story much more ripe for continued exploration.

Rattling Positive Story: Mastering the Instruments of a Highly effective Narrative

three. Artistic Play

Placing your personal stamp on a basic may also be a enjoyable, difficult train in creativity. Look at the methods during which the beforehand talked about examples altered the unique supply materials to devise a distinctive, distinctive narrative. The strategies for doing so are myriad: Change the style (as Mel Brooks did in his slapstick hit comedy Younger Frankenstein); contemporize the setting (as each Sittenfeld and Fielding did with Satisfaction and Prejudice); assume a perspective not explored within the unique (the specialty of bestseller Gregory Maguire, writer of Depraved, After Alice and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister); base one in every of your characters off another person’s iconic character, however drop them in a completely new setting (ever discover how Albus Dumbledore watches over the halls of Hogwarts, and Gandalf takes on the well-being of Center-Earth, however they fill parallel roles?). So as to pull it off and never appear by-product, you should harness the complete potential of your artistic aptitude.

The novel Nice by Sara Benincasa was impressed by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Nice Gatsby. In her retelling, Benincasa recreates Jay Gatsby as a younger lady named Jacinta. The story follows Naomi (our Nick Carraway stand-in), a teen who reluctantly accompanies her mom to the Hamptons for the summer time. Whereas there, Naomi turns into pleasant with the favored, trend-setting Jacinta, a neighbor who blogs about style and hosts lavish events, and just like the analogous Gatsby, party-girl Jacinta has secrets and techniques—and a scandal thus unfolds. The retelling sticks to the construction of the unique story, however places it into a trendy setting, alters the voice for a young-adult viewers and, maybe most significantly, flips the lead from male to feminine: a veritable triple menace of inventive deviation.

And don’t assume for a second that looking for inspiration from the literary canon will handicap your possibilities at signing with an agent, discovering a writer and even garnering main awards. Jane Smiley’s 1992 Pulitzer Prize–winner, A Thousand Acres, is a trendy interpretation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, based mostly in rural Iowa. The Bard’s tragic story of battle and betrayal is reconceptualized by Smiley as the story of a farming household within the Midwest who experiences alcoholism, home violence and cash issues. Removed from being overshadowed in adaptation by its origin, A Thousand Acres garnered large important reward on its personal deserves.

4. Pre-Established Followers

Final however not least, don’t low cost the truth that by recasting an already beloved work, you’re stepping onstage earlier than an keen, ready meeting. There’s a sure consolation within the acquainted. Admirers of the unique are sometimes eager to expertise their favourite tales advised in a new approach. The truth that your story is predicated on the oeuvre of a literary grasp might pique potential readers’ curiosity and provoke them to pluck your guide off the shelf.

Take into consideration Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which has been retold actually a whole lot of occasions with out ever seeming to get previous, and continues to evoke pleasure in audiences. In movie alone, its reinterpretations run the gamut when it comes to style:

COMEDY: Scrooged, the 1988 adaptation, was a profitable take on A Christmas Carol as a result of it depicted the miserly Ebenezer as a egocentric tv government performed by the hilarious Invoice Murray. By using humor, the work is recast by way of a utterly recent lens.

ROMANCE: The 2009 film Ghosts of Girlfriends Previous follows womanizer Connor as he’s visited by premonitions of his previous, current and future lovers. They discover his pursuit of meaningless relationships and shallow way of life, and as he sees what he’s lacking, he begins to remorse his selections. What makes this take divergent is that, in contrast to different interpretations, this Scrooge-like character isn’t tightfisted with cash—he’s simply afraid of creating a dedication to a significant relationship.

BIOGRAPHY: Launched in 2017, The Man Who Invented Christmas explores A Christmas Carol via the lifetime of its writer. It seems on the well-trod story from a utterly totally different perspective—exploring the lifetime of Dickens himself and the actual inspiration for Scrooge. (Spoiler alert: It was his father.) This model attracts a entire new viewers of literary fanatics and novice historians—not simply these within the temper for a feel-good vacation movie.

The memorable personalities of Dickens’ Ghosts of Christmas Previous, Current and Future—and the parable on the coronary heart of the story—have helped A Christmas Carol become a snug story for all ages, and its distinct qualities permit loads of room for you to adapt wildly whereas sustaining a recognizable connection to the inspiration.

Trendy writers can cull from ageless tales in innumerable methods. Past the books normal in highschool and school English courses, fairy tales and myths from historic cultures are equally appropriate for fodder. Your solely restrict is your creativeness. For example, in George Saunders’ experimental novel Lincoln within the Bardo, whole chapters are composed of brief excerpts from historical past books—some actual works, some fictional passages Saunders drafted himself. It’s thrilling, it’s creative—and it gained the Man Booker Prize in 2017.

Apply the methods outlined on this article, and shortly you’ll be re-animating the bones of previous tales in new and thrilling methods—with, hopefully, higher outcomes than Victor Frankenstein.


This course will exhibit that one of the simplest ways to turn out to be a good author is to research the writing of others, particularly the work of the masters. Study extra and register.

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