About Me

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I am an aspiring writer living and working in Hull. I working on a novel, as well as writing short stories to keep my writing skills fresh. I decided to start a writing blog to connect with other writers. So please, take a look around and leave some comments - I'd love to read some of your writing blogs too. Nari X

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Modern Rewrite

How cute is my dragon?

One of the most used exercises in creative writing classes is the modern rewrite - taking a classic story, myth or legend and rewriting it in a modern setting. We were given this as one of our first tasks at University, and I still have the half-written story I came up with. I wrote about Argus, the giant with a hundred eyes, as a modern-day security guard. With this sort of story there is naturally some level of humour in the principal, which I found by giving Argus a short, tubby, ordinary human partner. He offers charisma. And doughnuts.

Of course, there have been several rewrites and modern interpretations of old myths and fairytales in the film world recently; There was Red Riding Hood, Mirror Mirror and Snow White and The Huntsman, and Beastly.

I write about this because I am currently working on my Local Preacher Course unit assignment, which calls for us to write a parable of sorts, reviving the modern message that can be taken from a Bible passage.

We have also previously studied Narrative Sermons, which is one of my particular favourites. You take a story from the Bible, choose one of the characters (the least noticed or thought about the better) and rewrite the whole thing from their perspective. These go down really well in family and evening services.

Anyway, I digress slightly. One of the books on our reading list for Uni was 'the Seven Basic Plots' by Christopher Booker. Now a lot of people were outraged, even offended by the suggestion that most if not all stories written follow one of 7(ish) basic plots. Surely we are more original than that?
But we can't deny that most of our stories have a particular structure to them, and a lot of the tried-and-tested basic plots that work well crop up again and again. Detective novels do it quite shamelessly. 
Because the fact is that so much can be done within the basic structure, and if the basic structure works, why not use it? 
And this, I believe is why many of these classic stories keep rearing their heads - because they work. They capture storytelling at it's best. 

Do we need to keep updating these classic stories? Surely, they are classic for a reason, and work best in the setting in which they were first written. However, kept as they are, many modern-day readers/film watchers would not be able to relate or understand the true meaning or depth of the story. This, of course, is most prominent when talking about modernising parables. We modernise them to introduce the ideas, messages and lessons into the world in which we live, not one we only read about. It brings the story to life for us.

So, what do you think?


  1. An interesting topic - I love this sort of thing. I've just entered a competition to re-tell a fairytale.

    I don't really like it when people re-write a whole novel with their own twist - not really any better than fan fiction (although kudos to 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' for sheer flippancy!). But I do like modern re-tellings of classic stories - fairytales and parables that are short (often written for children) and are no longer really associated with an author.

    I think when it comes to the bible, the parables themselves are strong, but the world is crying out for modern versions that have the same relevance to listeners today as the originals had 2000 years ago.

    (This is a really well-written post by the way!)

  2. Thanks for the comment Chloe, sorry I haven't replied all this while.
    This is the thing we need to remember about parables and bible stories - they were told and written with specific relevance to the people at the time. Too many people get funny about rewriting/rewording these stories. Even when it comes to Bible translations, I know a fair few people who swear the bible should always be read in the King James Version. Why? Nobody talks like that anymore. The language is not relevant to us. The whole point of that translation was to be relevant to the people at the time.
    I agree with you on re-written novels. But I love the fact that in many stories you could point out a feature or character flaw/trait which holds echoes of this or that classic. Let's face it, it gives English Literature students something to do.. :P

    Nari X

    ps, thanks loads for the book :) it arrived safely and undamaged. I warn you, though, I am a slow reader. I'll let you know how i'm getting on with it.