(7/28/04 4:57 pm)
Re-tellings: Writing and Reading|
This is a question aimed specifically at the writers, but other perspectives are welcome of course!
While you are writing, say a novel re-telling of a fairy tale, do you read a lot of other novel re-tellings of THAT fairy tale? Or, do you avoid them and just read your source materials so you won't be influenced by other novelists' perspectives?
(7/29/04 12:12 am)
technically, I'm not a writer, but...|
I am an unpublished (as of yet) writer, so... I think to read your own source material seems better. That way, whatever ideas or random thoughts you have are yours alone. I find it difficult, personally, to read similar material when I'm writing because I invariably end up with another writer's images in my head. And then I become distracted by peculiar anxieties revolving around plagirism. A bit silly, I know, but being unpublished makes me extra wary. I think reading as many variants as is reasonable for you is a good way to go. I find the subtle changes the most intruging, the little bits are the ones that get caught in my net. Good luck on your work.
(7/29/04 4:43 am)
Re: technically, I'm not a writer, but...|
Read source material, even poetry, songs, additional research, but avoid other novelizations like the plague.
Only one novelist's take on this, however.
(7/29/04 11:24 am)
It's so fun to read the different perspectives on this board!
I definitely read other retellings of any story I'm working on. But first, I get the Aarne-Thompson outline of the various motif/plot permutations, to track which elements previous writers have "tweaked," or emphasized, or reversed.
Maybe that's because opposition helps me to define my own ideas: I agree with this, don't agree with that. And it's fun to plot something completely different from what's already been done.
For example, I'm working on a version of "Toads
and Diamonds." The fate of the rude sister in this story
always bugged me, so that's the element I wanted to play with. In
retellings I've read so far, the rude sister goes crazy; or her
creepy-crawlies become more valuable than diamonds; or she impersonates
the "good" sister to make the prince/husband back off
from his greedy demands. I've changed the outcome by setting my
story in a culture where snakes are valued, so the fairy's two gifts
are equivalent in worth-- wealth (diamonds), or power (snakes &
toads), and what are the girls going to do with them?
Looking forward to hearing more about your story!
(7/29/04 1:10 pm)
Waves to Laura!
I tend to avoid them, at least until the very end of the first draft
(I'm about to reward my patience with Vivian's THE
RUMPELSTILTSKIN PROBLEM), just to make sure my vision is my
own. I do pick up picture books and browse through older fairy-tale
collections, just to make sure I have the basic elements of the
story firm in my head.
It does rather limit your reading, however! I've been wanting to
read Napoli's SPINNERS
for two years now, and ZEL
is off my list indefinitely. There's irony in here somewhere, that
we--THE audience for retellings--"must" avoid books we
would probably love!
But, then, writers are a crazy bunch, and we all knew that.
(7/29/04 4:42 pm)
I'm not a published writer either, but so far I've gotten around the problem of reading other retellings of the story by choosing rather obscure stories. Read the source for sure, and check out storytellers too, for odd interpretations if you want. By the way, anyone know of any retellings of the Lindworm?
It would depend, I would think, on what you wanted to achieve in the retelling. If you want to have an, er, original retelling, then I would think you'd have to read other versions to make sure you didn't step on anyone else's toes.
(7/30/04 4:47 am)
Thanks to all and waves to Greensleeves - I didn't realize that was you!
Your answers are all very helpful. Initially I thought I'd read other novel retellings of this story I'm interested in - there are only a couple - but then, when I had one in the house, I found I didn't want to read it though it looks like a great book. I did a quick glance to be sure my intended direction wasn't the same, then returned it to the library. Am sticking with sources.
As to Ceres question about Lindworm - I don't know of any.
Edited by: Laura McCaffrey at: 7/30/04 4:49 am
(7/30/04 5:56 am)
Ah, we are talking apples and hairnets here.
I am speaking of novels, not picture book or storybook retellings. In the latter, I read as many other retellings as possible. But if I am using a particular story as the basis for a novel, I do NOT read other novelizations that may overly-influence me.
Right now Im am working (with my son Adam) on a rock-and-roll fairy
tale novel called TROLL BRIDGE. It's based on a combination of Three
Billy Goats Gruff and Twelve
Dancing Princesses. I have been reading the original tellings
of both stories in multiples, but no novelizations (if there are
any) of either tale. Also reading other Norwegian troll stories.
This is either clear--or clear as mud.
(7/30/04 7:21 am)
"I am speaking of novels, not picture book or storybook retellings. In the latter, I read as many other retellings as possible. But if I am using a particular story as the basis for a novel, I do NOT read other novelizations that may overly-influence me."
This is absolutely what I was curious to know. Thanks so much.
(9/4/04 5:57 pm)
Birthing a story|
If you can bear one more slightly related perspective: I am in my "day job" a film critic, and I make it a point to never, EVER read anyone else's review of a movie I'm going to review before I've written mine. I don't want to have anyone else's interpretation in my head before I've figured out what my own ideas are—and I never know what I think until I write it all out.
As an after-hours fiction writer, I find the same basic rule applies. In my fairy tale-inspired novels, I read all I can about the origins & traditions of the original tale, maybe even a little about alternate interpretations, but never anyone else's novelization of the same material—I save those for later. I'm especially afraid I might inadvertantly strangle my muse if I read another version that's maybe a little too close to mine.
In another post, someone tipped me off to a short story with a similar premise to a book I'm working on now. On one hand, I'm dying to read it—it sounds great! On the other hand, I don't dare read it yet. I can't afford to in any way inhibit the story & characters I'm trying to coax into life. I owe it to them to give them birth, and we all know what a complex & delicate process birthing can be!