How to Come Up With Your Own Retelling
Books that are retellings of well-known stories have been popular for some time. Everything from modern adaptations, stories told from the villain’s viewpoint, and stories retold as if the pivotal moment of the original didn’t happen have popped up over the past few years.
For writers, retellings create a fun opportunity to play with well-loved characters or to imagine the story in a new setting, but every retelling needs a new twist, a way to hook readers in and keep them interested in a storyline that they may already know by heart.
When I wrote A Touch of Gold, a young adult retelling about the cursed daughter of King Midas, I switched the story so that it’s told from the daughter King Midas turned to gold as a child because it offered a fresh, new take on the myth. And for those looking to write their own retellings, here are a few ways they can go about it:
1.) New main point of view character
By changing the character the story is told from, we can gain new insights into the original characters too. Maybe the princess we’ve always loved was a total diva. Maybe the villain wasn’t really a true villain. There are so many possibilities when changing the main character. Sarah Henning’s Sea Witch does this quite well by telling the origins story of Ursula.
2.) Switch genders of protagonists
Gender bent stories offer a new way to tell the story by switching the genders of the protagonists. See how you can craft new scenarios for the main character now that they have a different personality and outlook on life.
3.) Different motivation
In Rosamund Hodge’s Cruel Beauty, it’s a Beauty and the Beast style retelling where the female protagonist sets out to kill the Beast-type character. Changing the character’s motivation can alter the story entirely.
4.) Different time period/setting
Cinderella in space? Look no further than Cinder by Marissa Meyer. Changing the setting and time period of the original myth opens up worlds of possibility (pun intended.) With new settings, you can have new challenges your characters have to face so that it doesn’t feel like the same old story we’ve read before.
5.) Continuation story/Next generation
Add on to the original myth by telling readers what happened afterward. Was everything happily ever after? Or did something else happen? Or, maybe you want to focus on the children of the heroes and heroines from the original myth. What trouble do they get themselves into?
There are so many possibilities when it comes to writing retellings, and these are just a few ways to get started. No matter what, have fun with it, and write a story that you would want to read.
A Touch of Gold (Blink/HarperCollins, August 2018). She grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, and received her master’s degree in Creative Writing from Butler University. She loves fairytales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling. Her wanderlust has taken her to every continent, where she’s walked on the Great Wall of China, found four-leaf clovers in Ireland, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, and cage dived with great white sharks in South Africa. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram (@annsulliva) or on her blog.
Kora spends her days locked in the palace, concealed behind gloves and veils, trying to ignore the stares and gossip of courtiers. It isn’t until a charming young duke arrives that Kora realizes there may be someone out there who doesn’t fear her or her curse. But their courtship is disrupted when a thief steals precious items from the kingdom, leaving the treasury depleted and King Midas vulnerable. Thanks to her unique ability to sense gold, Kora is the only one who can track the thief down. As she sails off on her quest, Kora learns that not everything is what it seems—not thieves, not pirates, and not even curses. She quickly discovers that gold—and the power it brings—is more dangerous than she’d ever believed.
Midas learned his lesson at a price. What will Kora’s journey cost?