Thursday, July 12, 2012
Riffing Off the Classics Your Way
So that's precisely what I'm going to talk about today since it's something I did a little of myself when I wrote my second novel, Blessed Are the Meddlers.
Unlike the movie Clueless where Amy Heckerling brilliantly re-imagined Emma as a privileged high school student living in L.A. and practically went plot point by plot point in telling the story with a Southern California twist, I opted for a broader route with my "modern-day Emma." I captured her meddling ways as far as matchmaking was concerned, but there was no Mr. Knightley, Harriet or Frank, no falling in love with her step-brother, just a wink and a nudge to them in the naming of my characters (yes, there's even an Austin...and yes, I know the spelling is wrong).
So if you're stuck in finding an original plotline that really inspires you, it never hurts to borrow from the classics. As a rule of thumb, you can borrow a little like I did or a lot like Ms. Heckerling, as long as the end result is still something unique. After all, there's nothing worse than getting inspiration from somewhere and bring a slave to it. Classics are classics for a reason, but putting a clever spin on one can not only be fun, but you'll have a built-in audience to boot.
After all, if you like Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, who couldn't help wondering what the story would be like once ZOMBIES were involved?
While it was admittedly a bit strange, it was a fun way to push the classic story into the modern age.
On a side note, I like to give myself little creative writing projects to keep those proverbial juices flowing between all my journalistic work and my own W.I.P, so imagining a classic literary hero or heroine in a new setting is usually my go-to assignment. Even if it doesn't end up being the idea I want to commit a full manuscript to, it's still a great exercise in riffing off an existing storyline and seeing what literary gold comes as a result (sometimes it's more like rusty copper, but you get the idea).