The meme is right, but I’m going to talk about retellings more than remakes. Is there a difference? At first glance, I thought there wasn’t. Then I considered the nuances a bit more and realized it was subtle. A remake/reboot is when an idea is totally overhauled almost to the point where it’s only related to the original by a few scraps. These are left to retain the minimal level of connection for nostalgia purposes. Retelling is when much of the original is kept, but is changed to suit the new narrative. Perhaps the perspective is being done from the villain’s side or it changes the time period. The audience can still identify many similarities while getting a sense of new. Not an easy thing to pull off, so what are some thing to do?
That’s right . . . I’m going back to the post title and making this a 7 list. Mostly because my brain keeps going into that layout. Damn thing has gotten bossier ever since I cut back on the rum and vodka.
- Read the original and as many retellings as you can. Do not go in with only a general idea of the source material. You might think that knowing too much many influence your own take too much. I’d say that isn’t as possible as being ignorant and botching the delicate union of new and old. You may find some unique angles in the plot that haven’t been explored or discover minor characters that can be flushed out. There’s no telling what might happen, but at least you will know enough of the past to show it the respect it deserves.
- Do NOT badmouth the source material and act like it’s an inferior product that should be honored by your attention. Seriously, I’ve seen people do a retelling, remake, or reboot then spit on the original. This makes you come across as an asshole who wants the built-in nostalgia and possible money of the original, but thinks very little of the fans and story. Again, you need to demonstrate some respect unless upsetting people is part of your marketing scheme. That’s entirely possible in this day and age.
- Ask yourself questions about the original. This can lead to covering plot holes in your own version. It may be something that other people are curious about, so you can help to give an analysis of the original. With it being in your story, it won’t be true canon, but it fits into the fun of discussing stories. These questions can be about characters, plot, setting, or anything that will help you build your retelling.
- Any major changes need to be thought out beforehand. If you’re going to retell ‘The Little Mermaid’ and put it in a desert then you’re going to need to explain yourself. It can’t be done on a whim since her being in the ocean is pretty central to being a mermaid. Maybe they’re sand mermaids or live in an underground sea. Just imagine this issue like you’re working with dominoes. When you knock down one, a few more are going to go.
- Don’t be obsessed with originality to the point where you’re barely touching on the source material. The goal is to tell a known story with a new twist instead of something entirely fresh. If you’re that focused on being 100% original then retelling isn’t the genre for you. Even if you’re hoping to get a foot in the door, you need to realize that there are major limits here.
- Please take notes. Whether it be on the original or your ideas, this can really help you keep things on track.
- Accept that you will be compared to the original and other retellings. Some people won’t like what you do. This is the nature of the beast and some is better than everyone hating your work. Don’t get into fights after publication. You can explain why you made some decisions, but be respectful even in the face of venom. Stepping into the arena of beloved stories means you’re going to make enemies, so the sooner you realize this, the easier it will be.