4 Steps to Retelling a Classic

Billy Goat, Goat, Horns, Horned, Goat Buck, Goat'S Head
My first retelling was the Three Billy Goats Gruff

I’m fascinated by retellings.  Here are 4 steps for tackling this kind of project.

Read, read, read.

It is always tempting to read a retelling and think “That’s not how I could re-work X.”  Instead of doing it that way, reread a few of your favorites.  Which ones really capture your imagination now?  Your taste may well have changed since you were 12 and that’s fine.  But you want to pick something you love know because you’ll be spending some serious time together.

Plot it out.

You don’t want your plot to copy the classic scene by scene but do jot down the major plot points you want to keep.  How would Romeo and Juliet procede if they met at a state fair?  A swim meet?  A tent revival?

Character creations

Now it is time to take a hard look at your characters.  You are going to need most of the main characters but secondary charcters and cameos can easily be altered.  You may end up changing character genders, combining characters or turning one of them into a drone (robotic not hive).

Props and settings

As you plan out your version of the book, think about the props and settings in the original. Which ones are important and need to remain? Can they be changed?  If so, how?  The ruby slippers might become a candy apple red moped.  In my 3 Billy Goats Gruff rewrite, the bridge just wasn’t going to work.  Where would my characters encounter the troll? This is a school story, so they cross his path in the cafeteria.

Figure out what features of the original are essential.  As you alter one thing, it will have a ripple effect.  Play around until you create a combination that works for you.  Then it is time to write!


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