Writing a retelling, or a continuation story, or a variation, is hard work. First of all, you get the comments like, “can’t you come up with your own ideas?” This usually comes from non-creative types, so I’m just going to pass that one by.
What really makes writing a reimagining hard is worrying about the fans of the original. Because you know, deep down in your gut, that someone is going to be disappointed with what you did.
Recently I had a conversation with my mom about this. She’s a fan of the retellings that stick close to the original, that have the same feel. When they veer away from the original plot, or when they become too modernized for her taste, she doesn’t even finish reading.
Not so recently, I polled a Facebook group of writers about their opinions on retellings. Did they prefer them to stick close to the original, or just be the basic idea of the original. The response was a resounding: basic idea only. “The ghost of the original,” someone said.
Personally, I like the middle ground. I love to read retellings of all kinds. They’re like meeting a brand new person who you feel like you’ve known your whole life. They’re familiar, they’re fun, they’re often inventive, and they always make me smile.
With SWAY, my modern-day retelling of PERSUASION, I stuck pretty close to the original. Too close in my early drafts, in fact. I had beta readers tell me that what the characters were doing made sense in Jane Austen’s time, but it didn’t make sense now. So I had to revise, and fix, and edit. The final product still rests on the side of sticking to the original rather than basic idea only. But for my second adult romance, a retelling of Elizabeth Gaskell’s NORTH & SOUTH (which is currently in limbo…), it’s not like the original AT ALL. In fact, I almost hesitate to call it a retelling. It’s more “inspired by.” For example, in N&S, one of the major plot points of the novel is the strike. In my book: no strike. In fact, my Thornton isn’t even his own boss.
I worry that readers will think I went way out in left field. I fear they’ll be disappointed. And yet, I retold the story the way I wanted to, and the way that felt authentic in a modern world.
I guess my question for you is, how do you like your reimagining’s—be they modern, continuation, or variation? I’m genuinely interested to hear others’ opinions on this.
I have a feeling everyone differs. But that’s what makes the variety of books out there, especially Jane Austen related, so great.