Howdy humans! I’ve recently realized that I love a good retelling. This is in part because of reading the Lunar Chronicles (EPIC series), and also because I love the possibilities that come with transposing classic stories into (in my case) sci-fi. I currently have one such retelling occupying 95% of my writer’s brain, and I can’t seem to focus on anything else. So, I thought it would be a good idea to look into retellings- what makes a good one, what makes a terrible one, and what are some guidlines when writing them? So, without further ado, here’s what I’ve learned about retellings!
As I understand them, retellings are about bringing something new to an old story. This was done effectively with The Lunar Chronicles, which are sci-fi retellings of fairytales such as Cinderella and Snow White. What I find so beautiful about The Lunar Chronicles is that their fairytale aspect attracted readers who might never have considered sci-fi. That’s what I hope to accomplish with retellings: emphasize that science fiction is a genre with stories that can be just as human and captivating as any other genre.
So what’s more important, staying true to the original story, or coming up with your own twist? The answer is neither. Retellings can be successful in their differences or because of their similarities to the original. For example, some retellings change the premise of the story they are based upon, and that is where their intrigue lies. The Twisted Tale books do an excellent job of this, with pitches like “what if Cinderella never found her happily ever after?”. By contrast, the charm of some retellings lies in their similarities to the original, making it a fun little task for readers to work out the easter eggs and references as they go. This was my experience with The Lunar Chronicles. The plots of the base fairytales were not altered drastically, just thrown into a futuristic setting, and it was fun drawing connections and seeing how the author chose to represent certain aspects of the stories. So when planning a retelling, it’s important to decide wether you want conceptual difference or difference in setting. Both are fun and intriguing options
A bit of a drag, but one thing you should consider when writing a retelling is the copyright status of the original material. Is it in the public domain? Generally its a bad idea to go for anything too recent. If you want to do a fairytale, or Shakespeare, or some other classic work of literature, you’re probably fine. But don’t go trying to make a Hunger Games retelling, or anything along those lines. Not only are such things very recent, but the author is very much alive and could potentially sue you.
So there you have it, my take on retellings! I’ve recently discovered my fascination with these, and have a couple ideas for some of my own in the future. I can’t wait to work on them more! But in the meantime, happy writing, fly safe, and have a great Easter!