Saturday 1 August 2015

Retelling Stories

Several of my books are retellings of other famous stories.  I've always enjoyed reading books and watching movies like this. Some of my favourites are as follows:

1.  10 Things I hate about You based on Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew
2.  Bride and Prejudice - The Bollywood version of Pride and Prejudice

3.  Bridget Jones Diary - Perhaps the most famous recreation of Pride and Prejudice
4.  The Hours by Michael Cunningham - with connections to Virginia Woolf and her characters
5.  The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski which retells the story of Hamlet

6.  Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel - Although this isn't a straight retelling, there are a lot of references to Shakespeare and many characters are named after Shakespearean characters.
7.  The Red Tent by Anita Diamant - a vivid retelling of the Biblical story of Jacob through the eyes of his daughter, Dinah

The great thing about retelling stories is that you get to live inside of them.  You get to know the characters better and imagine what they are thinking and feeling.  It also provides a clear outline for your book.  I don't have to wonder where the book will go next or how it will end.  However, I also give myself the freedom to change things up if that is where the story and characters take me.

In Suspiciously Reserved, I told the story of Emma from Jane Fairfax's point of view and set it in contemporary Canada.  Using a secondary character was great because there aren't as many details about her in the original.  There was a lot of room for creativity and character development.

In Banff Springs Abbey, I recreated the story of Northanger Abbey in modern Canada, but kept Catherine Morland as the main character.  I was interested in what the story would look like two hundred years later.  I had thought it would be more frightening, but the story itself if more of a satire of the gothic genre than an actual gothic story itself.  It was a real joy imagining the story in my hometown and Catherine was an endearing character to explore.
My work in progress is a modern retelling of a well-known Biblical character.  Again, I wondered what the story would look like today, hundreds of years later.  There is so much that needs to be translated - an entirely different culture with completely different rules and mores.  I sometimes feel like it is cheating to retell these stories, but the challenge is in the translation and in bringing these stories back to life.  

I do plan to create my own story for my next book, but I think, due to my love of reading, that it will be difficult to step completely out of other favourite tales.  Even if there is no obvious correlation to a known story, I know these stories will sneak into my own, begging to be retold and given new life.

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