Hello, I’m back! I had a nice, relaxing hiatus and I know that you all missed me (you did miss me, didn’t you? Didn’t you?). Anyway, today I’m going to give you guys a few tips about writing a retelling, since it’s no secret that I’m a slight bit obsessed with retellings.
First of all, the question is…How do you write a retelling that stands out from the myriad of other retellings that have been written?
Good question, thank you for asking
Inspiration is everywhere, it really is. And it’s especially rich in the stories and tales that have already been told and have been passed down through generations. A retelling can be inspired by anything—a classic novel, like Oliver Twist or Peter Pan, a myth, like the story of King Midas or Persephone, a historical event, such as World War 1 or The French Revolution, or a fairy tale, such as The Little Mermaid or Cinderella.
However, when looking for a story to retell, there’s a few things you should keep in mind.
The Story Should Be In the Public Domain
The story should be in the public domain. If you want more information on the public domain, you can do a quick Google search for the definition. The works of Charles Dickens, Jules Verne, The Grimms, Hans Christian Andersen, Jane Austen and a lot of other authors are all in the public domain, which means that you are free to use them.. You need to be careful though, because you could technically get into a lot of legal trouble with, say, Disney, if you used their version of Beauty and the Beast as the basis for your retelling, rather than the original fairy tale.
Try Something Different!
Do a Google search for “Fairy tale retellings” and see what comes up. Likely, there’ll be a lot of Cinderella retellings, a plethora of Snow White retellings and about a hundred Beauty and the Beast retellings. Of course, if you’re heart is set on writing one of those, and you think you have something new and original to bring to the age-old tale of Cinderella, go ahead and do it! Make it yours! But what if you chose a lesser known tale or novel to inspire your retelling? Why not try “The Snow Queen” (Disney’s Frozen is actually a retelling of this story), or “The Wild Swans”. You could try Little Dorrit or Bleak House, by Dickens, instead of Oliver Twist
But Not So Different That Its Obscure
On the other hand, your story shouldn’t be too obscure either, so don’t go out of your way to find a really unique Grimm story. Who’s going to care if you market your story as a retelling of The Wishing-Table, the Gold Donkey and the Cudgel-in-the-Sack? You could definitely use the plot as a basis for an original story, but pitching it as retelling is probably not going to work. However, there are some fairy tales that are lesser known than others, but still linger at the edge of our consciences—like Snow White and Rose Red, or The Six Swans.
The Story Should Make you Say “What if?”
What if is the essence of retellings, it makes you look at an established story and say What if X was different. For example, when I started my Les Mis retelling, the what if was What if Les Miserables took place in the future? Setting the story in the future made me consider how our culture might have changed—if it would have changed—and how that would affect the storyline. When I was plotting a The Wild Swans + Swan Lake retelling, I asked What if an entire ballet company (instead of a bunch of princes) was transformed into swans and the prima ballerina had to change them all back, whilst being half swan herself? When I was plotting a The Little Mermaid + King Arthur retelling I asked, What if Guinevere and the princess who married the prince were the same person?
Sorry that today’s post is a bit scattered! It’s always hard for me to get back into the swing of blogging after a hiatus. However! You should, by now, know my opinions on retellings? What are yours? Have you tried to write one? What’s your favourite retelling? How have you been (I’ve missed you all!)?