Happy Birthday, Seekerville! I am so excited to celebrate your birthday month with you! I’m also happy to share my thoughts about making over an old classic, and I hope it will spark a few exciting ideas in some Seekervillians.
Over a million books were published last year in the United States, according to one source. That is a lot of stories, which might lead you to think it’s all been done before. But as long as there are unique people in the world, there will be unique stories—and unique twists on classic stories.
And here is something else you may or may not already know.
The Sales and Marketing teams at publishing houses have just as much control over what the publishers publish as the editors do. Maybe more. They have to be able to sell your book to book stores and to readers, and if they don’t think they can do that, they will vote against your book in a committee or pub board meeting.
How can you make your book more appealing to these people whose job it is to sell and market your book?
This question brings me back to my previous assertion.
Certain stories are considered classics. They are very well-known, and people all over the world get a certain image in their minds when they see or hear the story title. Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty. These “fairy tales” are well-known by millions, even billions of people. Other well-known and loved stories come from history: Joan of Arc leading an army, Antony and Cleopatra coming to tragic ends, Henry the Eighth bringing his wives to tragic ends. Then there are Bible stories everyone knows: David and Goliath, Daniel in the Lions’ Den, Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. We even have classic literature stories that most people are familiar with: Pride and Prejudice, The Scarlet Letter, Jane Eyre, and Moby Dick.
These are icons. If you mention them, people instantly know what you’re talking about. Even if they haven’t read them, there is instant recognition.
What would happen if you put your own spin on a classic story that everyone knows? Their interest will be piqued if, say, you have written a retelling of Les Miserables from the point of view of the young girl, Cosette, and you have set the story in Virginia during the Civil War.
Did you immediately get a picture in your mind? If you like a story with lots of danger and drama, and you like Civil War stories, I hope you got a little excited. It’s much more vivid than saying, “I have written a Civil War epic set in Virginia from the point of view of a young girl.”
Another example is a YA book called Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg. From the title, you already get the idea that it is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice. It is set in a contemporary private school in the Northeast, with the Lizzie character a less-than-wealthy scholarship student and Will Darcy a very rich and popular fellow student. Is the plot exactly like Pride and Prejudice? No. The author puts her own twists on the story. I loved how she made the young hero so much like Mr. Darcy in the original story, and yet he was a completely modern young adult boy.
But why did I pick up the book in the first place? What made me want to read it? It was the lure of getting a new take on my favorite novel. I was intrigued before I even read the back cover. I would think that marketing and sales people would be ecstatic to be handed a book like this. It will not be hard to sell this book because everyone can instantly see its appeal. And what an easy one-liner! “Pride and Prejudice in a New England prep school.” And lots of others come to mind, but you get the drift already.
This book will not appeal to people who don’t care for Jane Austen stories. But for people who DO love Pride and Prejudice, it’s almost irresistible.
Take fairy tale retellings. When someone tells you their story is a romantic retelling of Cinderella set in Medieval Europe, you instantly know a lot about the story, and it will appeal to those who enjoyed the Cinderella fairy tale as a child (who didn’t?) and who like historical romance.
So how do you put your own twist on a well-known story? Nothing could be easier. Think of your favorite classic story. Your favorite Bible story. Your favorite fairy tale. Your favorite classic novel. Now imagine that story and those characters in your favorite historical time period, or in a modern U.S. city or state. Are you imagining it? Now, think of some new twist you could put on the story. Change up a plot point or one of the characters. Could you change the gender of the main character? Instead of Pinnochio being a wooden boy, maybe he is a girl cyborg.
(Okay, that example is a bit outlandish, but someone recently wrote a very popular YA series based on Cinderella, in which the main character is a cyborg living on a colony on the moon. The first book is called Cinder, by Marissa Meyer.)
Usually your setting will suggest many of the twists you will need to make the story all your own.
Another example is Sixty Acres and a Bride by Regina Jennings, which is a retelling of the Bible story of Ruth and Boaz, set in the 1800’s in the wild Southwest. If you like romance, and if you know the story of Ruth and Boaz, this HAS to intrigue you, and I’ve only used a handful of words and a couple of seconds to tell you about it.
Another example is Mary Virginia Carmichael Munoz, writing as Mary Jane Hathaway, and her book, Pride and Prejudice and Cheese Grits. Instantly you can conjecture that this is a retelling of P&P set in the contemporary Deep South. And the book has done very well as a self-published book by an unknown author. How does that happen? Well, it’s a great book, I’m sure, but she intrigued people and told them a lot about the story just from associating the book with a well-known, classic story.
My newest fairy tale retelling, The Captive Maiden, is a Cinderella story. I wasn’t sure I would ever do a Cinderella story, since there have been so many. But I knew I wanted my next book to be about Valten, and as a hero, he seemed the perfect person to rescue his very own Cinderella. I mixed in some allusions to another of my favorite stories, Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, and it wasn’t long before I felt I had a unique Cinderella story, with my motivated characters and my setting lending themselves to lots of plot twists.
There are all kinds of twists on classic stories out there. But now it is your turn. Think of your favorite story and put a new twist on it. I guarantee you can think of something no one else has come up with. So even though “there is nothing new under the sun,” you are the only “you” there is or ever has been, and therefore you can put an original spin on a classic story. I dare you to try it.
Today, Melanie is giving away a print copy of her November release, The Captive Maiden to one lucky commenter. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.
Gisela's life consists of cooking and cleaning for her stepmother and stepsisters, with little time for much else. But when she discovers that the duke's son, Valten---the man she's admired for years---is in search of a wife, she's determined to attend his ball. Will Gisela live happily ever after with her Prince Charming? Pre-order here.
Melanie Dickerson grew up loving fairy tales and being fascinated with Medieval Europe, especially stories about knights and true love. Her first published novel, The Healer’s Apprentice, won the National Readers Choice Award for Best First Book, and her first two novels were Christy Award finalists. Her fairy tale retellings are historical romances set in Medieval Europe. She has done Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, and now Cinderella, and has plans for more in the near future. And when she’s not twisting her favorite fairy tales, she’s taking care of her husband and two daughters in north Alabama. She’s also a former teacher and missionary, and earned a degree in special education from The University of Alabama. She loves being social, so visit her on:
|For details on our 6th Birthday Giveaways check here.|