I'm happy to welcome Jessica Lawson, author of The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher to my blog today! She's planning to tell us more about retellings and some rules to follow if you plan to write one!
Rules for Retellings/Reimaginings
Three Rules for Retellings/Reimaginings1. First, you should love the original work as written and have respect for the author. Basically, retell the story because you love it, not because you loathe it. In my opinion, a retelling shouldn’t be undertaken in order to “fix” something that the original author did wrong, but rather to bring fresh attention and a new perspective to a well-loved tale.
I love Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer exactly as written. I love the story so much that I found myself thinking of its characters often, and eventually that emotional closeness to the story prompted me to revisit the world I loved so well.
2. There must be at least one large twist. But the twist should be a playful/thoughtful/deliberate one that has meaning within the original elements, not just a random item. In the words of Mark Twain, “know the facts and then distort them as you please.” Know why you’re changing a key element of the story and be confident in your reasoning. A version of Charlotte’s Web in space? That’s fine! But you need to be able to justify the twist being necessary in order to bring something new to the context of the original. Utilize the twist to strengthen your version of the story and let it inform your plot and characters. Choose your twist deliberately and with attention to the plot/characters of the original.
3. Keep the heart of the original in mind and try your best to honor it. Even if you’re retelling Cinderella to make the wicked stepmother character the heroine and her stepdaughter a horrible conniving brat, the basic idea is the same—one person is unfairly treated and must find their own journey to happily-ever-after, while the baddie gets punished.
While my own retelling of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer alters personalities and changes plot elements, the themes of learning what it means to grow up and struggling with losing pieces of childhood are still there and are recognizable.
Happy writing and reading! And if you haven’t read a retelling lately, my blog hostess Melissa’s own Classic Double Challenge is a wonderful way to get motivated.
Thank you so much, Melissa!
Jessica Lawson’s debut middle grade novel, The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher is available now. You can visit her at http://jessicalawsonbooks.com and on twitter.
Thanks for the post, Jessica! I've always wanted to write a retelling and now I have some lovely guidelines (for if I eeeeever get around to it). You can check out my review of Jessica's book, The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher.
If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage