I finished reading a book today based on a fairy tale. Not really all that unusual – I’ve been a major fan of the original classics since I was little and I tend to enjoy a good retelling.
There’s something about a fresh perspective that can bring an old story back to life…or make you think about it differently than you used to.
Still, I hesitated even picking this one up – not because of the fairy tale itself – but because it’s one that I had hoped to maybe retell myself. And so I debated for a few days.
For one thing, I couldn’t help but wonder if the author was going to tell it the way *I* wanted to tell it. Would she do it better? Would she think of something I hadn’t thought of? And if she had, should I even bother with trying to do my version at all?
I wouldn’t call it fear exactly – I mean, any author out there who continues to read in his or her genre probably faces the same sort of thing from time to time. Reading is a good thing. It keeps your own ideas fresh, lets you know what the trends are or if a trope is being overused. Also? It lets your writing brain shut down for a while and puts it into a better absorption mode. (There’s nothing quite like getting excited about an idea or concept for a fresh dash of inspiration.)
Since I’ve started writing I’ll admit I haven’t had as much time to read for enjoyment as I used to. And even when I do find the time, I often find myself in “edit” mode and it can take me a couple of chapters to stop nitpicking through sentence structure. (It becomes such a habit these days and it’s hard to turn off.) But once I do, I can lose myself pretty easily the way I used to, which I find rather comforting.
Now as far as this retelling goes – I did pick it up and I did read it in about a day or two – and I was a bit disappointed in it. Reworking a fairy tale has its own set of disadvantages – for one thing, most people likely already know the basics of the story and have their own interpretations – so it’s a fine line between staying too close to the original or going so far off track that it’s not even recognizable. This wasn’t a *bad* interpretation, by any means – in fact, the ending was nicely done…but I felt like there was a great deal of potential that wasn’t used.
The truth is that every writer needs to have confidence in their own voice and their own ability to tell a story – even if it’s one everyone already knows.
So maybe I’ll get around to writing my own version, after all.