Sunday, December 13, 2009

Making it Your Own

I spent last night editing two short stories. In the background I'd started Syfy's latest mini-series Alice. Since I was just doing the most basic of editing chores, grammar, my brain kind of floated onto a parallel thought pattern.

I thought that their adaption of the story was brilliant. Their twists on the character, the world, and the storyline was absolutely unique and interesting. I, as the watcher, was treated to a grown up version of a childhood favorite.

I was so excited after the original airing that I hurried onto the Syfy forum to post a comment and was a little surprised. There was plenty of praise and lots of "I loved it", which was not the surprise. My surprise came from the negative. It was completely polar. I didn't expect such a dramatic gap of either loved it or hated it.

Why are you talking about a movie on a writing blog? I know you're asking it. Hang with me here, I'm heading to a writing point....well, meandering to it I guess.

I wondered if this reaction was from the viewpoint of Lewis loyalty or, in fact, they didn't like the story. Had they felt the original Looking Glass books were tarnished by this new approach? Stemming that question, did they feel the story should remain in its pure form?

At this point, my parallel thoughts could no longer remain focused on their individual tasks. I stopped my editing and wondered: how far can you take a traditional story and make it your own? I know there will always be naysayers, but can you judge the success of the masses and should you even try?

My latest story (still untitled...its own irky situation) stems off a Native American oral story of creation. That is, stems off by a very large margin. How will the response of this be when - yes, think positive with when, not if - this gets published? Will I offend the Navajo people? Native Americans in total? Or will they see it as the respect and admiration of their wonderful history, as I launched the idea with?

Here are two key boundaries I followed in writing the Navajo story. From my interpretation of the Alice movie, they seemed to have kept along this line too.

  • Keep the core meaning of the story. Alice to a majority of readers is the need to stay grounded and face reality as it is. (I know it's a VERY generalized statement and there's arguments for and against it being this.)
  • Try to keep the core of the characters purpose within the story. Alice's White Rabbit was to kick off the story and lead Alice to Wonderland and along her journey throughout the story.
Of course, I don't know how this will turn out for my short. Judging by Alice responses, there's always those who would keep it untouched. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Good writing all!


  1. I haven't seen "Alice", but have read some reviews about it going both ways (though possibly more negative ones, since the reviewers I follow had Opinions O:)). Though you're right--there will ALWAYS be people who hate something, a re-telling or not, no matter how you do it.

    It's the same of anything. I think (unless you're doing satire or something), if you generally respect the core of the story you're redoing, and you do it in a way that you personally are happy and satisfied with, don't worry about what the naysayers will think.

    Like Jackson's adaptations of LOTR. Yes, I have some issues with it, but I still love the movies and books--I think generally PJ managed to stick to the core story and themes, which is why it worked for me even with some changes I didn't agree with.

    So yeah. :) Focus on getting the story polished and to a point you're satisfied with and then send it out.

    My .02 cents. O:)


  2. I agree with Merc. With any type of art there will be people who both love and hate it. It doesn't matter if it's a remake or not.

  3. Very true fellow writers. I guess there is just no way to make EVERYONE happy. Thanks so much for your thoughts.