If you take a look at Hollywood movies today, many of them are remakes of old movies or based on books that have been well known for a long time. The same is true in the publishing industry. It is much easier to sell a book that is a sequel to “Pride and Prejudice” to the crowd of Jane Austen fans than it is to sell a new romance novel, and while most vampire novels today are not sequels to “Dracula,” They capitalize on the popularity of the vampire figure.

A writer looking for a “new” topic might consider taking a look at popular stories, myths, legends, or events in history and creating a new story or version of the story based on them; Such a review of an ancient story can be a profitable and easier way to win over a reading audience. Once you write a book that tells what happened after the fall of Camelot or after Cinderella married the prince, as long as you have told the story well, you will have created a reading audience. Then you will probably have an audience that will largely follow you when you write your completely original novel set in a world with characters that you only created without the help of another author.

Before you dismiss the idea of ​​rewriting an old story in a new way, take some time to think about the stories that have captured your imagination over the years and think about how you would have wished they would end differently, what if you came back? to count them? The story the way you wish it had been told or the ending you would have preferred? Here are some examples of old stories that have been reinvented in recent years for new audiences that can give you some ideas:

King Arthur: There is no shortage of novels that come out to retell the story of King Arthur and Camelot. Among the best are “The Mists of Avalon” (1982) by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which retells history from the point of view of women. This novel inspired many others to retell the Arthurian legend, including Jack Whyte’s Chronicles of Camulod, which told the story before Camelot, to numerous books about what happened after Camelot, and even stories of King Arthur set in outer space. There are many readers who will buy almost any book with a King Arthur connection.

Ancient myths: Marion Zimmer Bradley also took advantage of the Trojan War by retelling that story from the point of view of women in her novel, “The Firebrand.” In addition, numerous books and films have freely adapted Greek myths, from “Clash of the Titans” to “Immortals.” The Norse, Egyptian, and Celtic gods are equally popular and capable of inspiring some great new novels.

Popular archetypes or characters: Vampire novels are very popular. The basic elements exist in all vampire stories, and “Dracula” is the seminal work on which most are built, although the writers reinvent the story by making it their own within the guidelines of the key elements, such as the vampire being a bloodsucker, unable to move. in the light of day, not being able to face a crucifix, its reflection is not seen in the mirrors and its power to turn into a bat. Other archetypal figures to consider include mummies, mermaids, and a wide range of fairy tale characters.

Classics: As long as the copyright on a book has expired, you are free to do whatever you want with it. Many authors have taken advantage of the classics. Some of the most popular in recent years have been “Mr. Darcy, Vampyre” and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”, both revisions of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” as they blend in with archetypal or mythical popular characters. Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked” reinvented the story of the wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz,” spawning a series of novels and a hit Broadway musical. Many more revisionist “Wizard of Oz” movies and books are currently in the works.

Historical events: The story can be dry, just facts and dates, but when you think about who those people really were, what motivated them, their loves, dreams, and goals, you can create great fiction. The popularity of books like Ken Follett’s “Pillars of the Earth” and numerous movies and television series like “The Tudors” have made people from centuries real and interesting to 21st century readers. Is there something about Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Columbus, Napoleon, or the Hitler story that still speaks to us today? Of course; they were human like us; What motivated you, frustrated you, led you to do good or evil, made you dream and succeed and fail? How can you take advantage of his humanity to make an interesting story today?

How to rewrite history

The key to creating a success story based on one you already know is to put a new spin on it. Here are some tips or questions to ask yourself when creating that new version of an old story.

  1. What made the villain a villain? Is there a villain backstory to tell? In “Wicked,” the Wicked Witch was understanding when we came to understand her motivation to behave the way she did.
  2. Was the story told from the point of view of the conqueror? In “The Wizard of Oz”, Dorothy simply accepts Glinda and the Wizard’s word that the Wicked Witch is evil. What if the Wizard and Glinda just didn’t like the witch and were lying about who she really was? What if you retell the story from the perspective of the conquered, or someone caught in the middle but not from either side? How would “Alice in Wonderland” be different if the Queen of Hearts or the Mad Hatter told the story? What if “Treasure Island” were retold from Long John Silver’s point of view?
  3. What if the culminating event had turned out differently? Recently, Stephen King published a time travel novel in which someone goes back in time to try to stop the assassination of President Kennedy. What if a milestone event hadn’t happened or happened differently? Kim Newman’s “Anno Dracula” is based on the assumption that Dracula was not defeated, and the result is that he has conquered England and even married Queen Victoria. Think of all the “what if” possibilities. What if the Trojans instead of the Greeks had won the war? What if the South had won the Civil War instead of the North? What if Abraham Lincoln hadn’t been assassinated? What if Napoleon had managed to conquer the world?
  4. How to explain something magical or mythical? In “Wicked”, the winged monkeys are actually the witch’s experiment in which she sews their wings. What if Merlin doesn’t have magical powers, but he’s just a good scientist who knows how to trick people into thinking he has magical powers? What if the Greek gods were actually humans who used deception to control people? What if St. George did a trick to make it look like he killed a dragon? What would any of these situations suggest about the main character or the world these people lived in? Think, for example, of the Wizard of Oz, who has everyone in awe of him, only to become a phony. Who else in literature, myth, or history could have been a hoax?
  5. What if the bad guy really was the good guy? Everyone knows that Mordred killed King Arthur, but some authors now describe Arthur as the bad guy, while Mordred was only trying to protect his country. What if the stepmother wasn’t bad but Cinderella was just a spoiled girl who was angry that her father remarried? What if the evil wizard was really a grandmaster trying to help the hero by playing devil’s advocate?
  6. What if the narrator is a liar, the unreliable narrator syndrome? Could the person telling us the story be lying to us? David Copperfield could be an unreliable storyteller, even a bully, while Uriah Heep really is a lowly hero wrongly accused of stealing Aunt Betsy’s money when in reality she was just a spendthrift. What about Injun Joe? Isn’t it possible that Tom Sawyer and his community were simply racist?

There are many possibilities to retell a classic story and get people to reconsider and watch it again. Make sure the work you choose to rewrite is not copyrighted. Everything published before 1900 should be safe.

Often rewriting a story with a new twist or twist can be an excellent writing exercise that takes an already effective plot and characters and allows the ability to watch them again while teaching a writer about pacing, plot, and development. of the character. While I’ve always advocated for authors to be original, retelling a story in an original way like Marion Zimmer Bradley did in “The Mists of Avalon” or Gregory Maguire in “Wicked” can do more than create a great novel. It can cause people to rethink history, see gray areas of meaning, and expand their imaginations in new and inspiring ways.

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