12 April 2013

Re-imagining and re-interpreting

I am currently working on a new novel which will be a re-imagining of one of my favourite childhood stories. Whether or not the novel ever moves forward remains to be seen, but I find myself constantly reflecting on the general process of literary remakes.

As an homage, the purpose of re-imagining a classic is to breathe new life into beloved characters and a treasured story (think of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book). But how is that best accomplished?

When should the new author reflect character traits and plot points of the original story? And when is it more appropriate to invent something new? In many cases, these questions answer themselves as you go. Historic settings, antiquated language, and old-fashioned behaviour must obviously be updated to create an engaging and plausible story. But if it was that simple, more classics would have modern versions, I'm sure.

I think it takes extreme finesse as a writer to create a new text that stands on its own, yet skillfully winks at its inspiration, allowing the original story to resonate in the updated work.

I should follow Mr. Gaiman's example and postpone this project until I can write with the above-mentioned finesse. In the meantime, I'll be looking for more insights on the pros and cons of this process.