Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Something Old Into Something New

photo by clarita, MorgueFile.com

It has been said that there are no unique story ideas. Okay, but does that condemn most stories, then, as nothing more than rehashed, already told tales? If so, wouldn’t readers be too bored to pick up a new novel?

Sometimes writers can become infatuated with a great story idea that is less than unique, but  the initial impulse might be to shy away from developing such an idea. Is this always wise? Why not consider developing a been there done that premise into something new--a version different and hopefully special. Yes, there are those published story premises done one too many times (Did someone mention vampire romances?) On the other hand, some stories stand out as unique despite the reflection of an already done premise. Think about Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story. Sometimes, a familiar story can be molded and contoured into a stand-alone work with its own merits.

How? Consider fresh characters with unique bends and twists to their back-stories, unique motivations, interesting values, and funky quirks. Or perhaps a unique setting can make a story unique. Maybe an added plot twist or different ending. How would Romeo and Juliet be different if their story was set in the year 2075, on Mars? 

What do you think? Can a less than unique story idea be tweaked to be new and improved? How might you transform something old into something new?

48 comments:

  1. "Can a less than unique story idea be tweaked to be new and improved?"

    Almost always. And I usually find some book that's similar to mine right about the time I'm wrapping up a work in progress! Similar--but different.

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    1. That's interesting, Jenn. Finding a similar story to one you're completing certainly adds to the argument that there are no unique ideas.

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  2. One of the things I find so interesting when I read with my 'writer's hat' on is when I see different ways that *I* might have taken the story I'm reading. I don't usually work off of any one else's ideas, but it's fun to consider once in a while.

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    1. So true, Jeff! I often look for similar story ideas to mine when I am in the outlining stage. I want to be sure that my plot isn't too close to something that has already been done. Although, I do believe that two writers given the same idea or plot will still write two unique stories.

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  3. I love when someone is creative enough to make an old tale new! West Side Story is a great example!

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    1. I agree, Jemi. There are some wonderful versions of already told tales.

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  4. I love this because it opens the mind to possibilities. So what if it's "been done before"? Make it fresh and new and exciting! No excuses.

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    1. Exactly! Part of the challenge, though, is that if the original story is well-known, readers already have expectations. They may, for example, expect a certain ending. The new version needs to pull readers in and keep them interested despite their prior knowledge.

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    2. I agree. I read an adaption of Cinderella that several of my CPs loved, and I just wasn't feeling it. Not everyone is going to love it, no matter what.

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  5. Well I guess turning a play into a musical is a brilliant way to re-invent the story!! Take care
    x

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  6. Indeed it is, Old Kitty. So many ways to retell or re-invent. : )

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  7. Exactly. And every writer has the potential to bring something new to that old thing. I'm listening to an alternate Pride and Prejudice right now and loving it.

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    1. That every writer has the potential to bring something new to something old is what I find most fascinating. Thanks, Donna.

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  8. This is a wonderful post, Cynthia. I recently read the YA novel: Cinder, by Marissa Meyer. I was somewhat reluctant to do so since it is a Cinderella story. However, the story is well-written and has a sci-fi twist, and guess what? I loved it. I was astonished that I enjoyed it so much. Thanks for the great reminder!

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    1. I almost used Cinder as an example in my post, Victoria. I, too, was reluctant to read that novel, but I enjoyed it and thought there was enough of a diversion from the age-old tale to make the plot interesting.

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  9. It opens up a whole new fountain of possibilities.

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  10. I would love to do a NA contemporary romance inspired by a fairytale. I just haven't figured out which one and how to place a fresh spin on it.

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    1. Putting a fresh spin or a new twist on something known is the tough part, I think, but I bet you'll come up with something brilliant, Stina. ; )

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  11. One of my favourite things is when an author takes something old and twists it to turn it into something new. I especially love fairy tale retellings!

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    1. I agree, Angela. Some of them are so well done, too.

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  12. With a little effort, anything can be made unique once more ;)

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    1. Thank goodness or we'd all run out of ideas. : )

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  13. I think that there can be a new twist on anything.

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    1. I agree. Finding the twist, though, can (for me) be the hard part.

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  14. I think it's all about character. If you create a compelling enough character, the reader will follow him anywhere even if the plot seems like a rehash.

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  15. Great point, Shannon. I know that once I fall for a character, I'll follow him or her anywhere. : )

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  16. LOL, I just used Romeo and Juliet/West Side Story rather extensively in my latest workshop. I was discussing concept.

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    1. I wish I could have been a part of that workshop, Marica. : )

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  17. Sometimes I resist the idea of old ideas made new, but there really are great retellings out there. It could be a twist in the story, everything made modern, and/or amazing characters.

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    1. To be honest, twists and amazing characters are two story elements that attract me to the retelling of a story that I might already be familiar with. Great comment, Medeia!

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  18. For me, this is where character and voice really come into play. There really are only a few plots.

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    1. Voice is another great example of how to make a told tell new and interesting. Thanks, Carol!

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  19. I just read Stephanie Parent's Defy the Stars, which is a modern day retelling of Romeo and Juliet, and it felt completely new to me.

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    1. That's amazing considering how often Romeo and Juliet has been retold. I'll have to read Defy the Stars. Thanks, Ruth.

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  20. Great post--absolutely! Plus, no one will ever have your unique voice!

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  21. Great post. Every writer has his or her unique voice and no story can be exactly same despite having the same troupes.

    Nas

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    1. Thanks, Nas. What a writer puts into a story really can make a huge difference.

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  22. These are great questions! Really pertinent these days, when readers and publishers seem to being burned out by what's already out there. It's up to us to infuse a little spark into tired old ideas. :)

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  23. Thanks, Carol! A little spark can go a long way! : )

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  24. I simple story with unexpected twists ... I find them very enjoyable to read.

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  25. I know we are talking about books for grown ups here, but one of the most brilliant examples of an old story cast in a new light is Jon Scieszka's "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs," from the viewpoint of the wolf, as told to a reporter from the pig penitentiary. Too funny! It ends with the line, "I was framed!"

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    1. Great example, Elizabeth! I love The True Story of The Three Little Pigs. And believe me, more often than not, I am thinking, talking, writing about children's books here. : )

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  26. I always like it when someone can take an old story and make it into something new and interesting.

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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  27. I think a writers job is to find old stories and tweak them until they look new again. :)
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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