Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why We Do Redux(es)

Hey sweet readers!

Raise your hand if you love the movie CLUELESS.

Cher is snobby, rich, and entitled, yet somehow we still love her. The way she sets up Miss Geist and Mr. Hall,  takes Tai under her wing and, by the end of the movie, totally comes around about resident stoner Travis - it's all so awesome. And that ending with Josh? *swoon.*



It's almost as awesome - maybe, in some ways, better than - the original CLUELESS:


Or what about TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU? The old school spoiled-yet-classic quirkiness of Padua High, the beautifully bitchy Kat, and the way Patrick Verona wins her - and our - heart? The adorable romance between Cameron and Bianca?  There's actually nothing like it.



Unless there was, like four hundred years ago.
The Taming of the Shrew (Dover Thrift Editions)

Reduxes, or retellings, aren't confined to epically awesome movies from the 90s. They have popped up all over Young Adult literature in recent years. CINDER by Marissa Meyer, SPLINTERED by AG Howard, and FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS by Diana Peterfreund are all awesome examples. (I know there are dozens more - these were off the top of my head.)

Why do we love retellings of classic literature so much? Why do we cling to it and retell it over, and over, and over again?

I can think of a few reasons:

- These stories have timeless themes. Love, the meaning of life, mourning loss, getting over our prejudices (and our pride. Hee.) Sacrifice and despair and overcoming it all. The ridiculousness and utter hilarity of life and clashing personalities. The simple truth that some people will always be kind and some will always be self centered and some will always, always, be jerks. The stories that make the best reduxes have themes that carry through the centuries and speak to the heart of what it means to be human.

- Drama is Drama is Drama is OMG SO AWESOME.  The way humans treat each other, and the emotions that tug at the human heart in reaction to their interactions, is just delicious. Using the examples above - When Josh (Mr. Knightley, swoon) told Cher (Emma) she was acting childish - when Kat finally maybe sorta kinda agrees to go out with Patrick (Pertruchio) - they ,make our hearts sink or soar because we have been there. *Sigh*

- These stories are good. They are smart. The plot twists and turns surprise us and delight us. The characters are unique and brilliant and funny and achingly beautiful, each in their own way. It's no wonder we want to tell them again and again, to turn them around to different angles and explore every possibility of how to tell the story. And, most of all, we want to make them accessible for people who might not be inclined to pick up a copy of the original.

I had so much fun writing a contemporary retelling of MANSFIELD PARK, one of my Austen favorites, this summer. It's called SOLVING FOR EX, because it's about Mathletes (hee.) I'm so very excited that it went out on submission to editors yesterday. I'm dying to see whether a publisher will pick up this retelling that recasts young ladies and gentlemen falling in and out of love as Mathletes navigating their way through high school, crushes, and catfights. Especially is exciting that, if it sold soon, it could be published in 2014 - Two hundred years after the original publication date.

I really hope my little retelling would make Ms. Austen smile.

What about you, my sweeties? What reduxes do you love, and why do you love them?



20 comments:

  1. Great post! A lot of those themes, characters and dramatic situations are timeless. It's nice to see them come back with a twist. Solving for Ex sounds fun--I hope it gets picked up soon!

    I really dig mythology, because it's stuffed with seemingly unintentional reduxes that span cultures. I remember reading the Mahabharata for the first time and having my mind blown when I got to the near scene-for-scene redux of the bow competition in the Odyssey.

    That's part of what inspired me to write a modern day Aladdin retelling (the mythology version, not the Disney version), and why I fell in love with The Grave Yard Book and its charming retelling of The Jungle Book.

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    1. Thanks for your good wishes!

      I love mythology too - such cool stuff. And I didn't know that about the Graveyard Book - that's awesome!

      Thanks for commenting!

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  2. I LOVE reduxes/retellings. My little novel that could (aka the R&R that never ends, etc etc) is actually based off the movie Heathers. While not quite a retelling or redux or any of that, I was really inspired by the source. I am crossing my fingers like woah for SfEx. I think more books like this need to be published! :-) Good luck!!!

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    1. Yay Heathers!!! Terrifying lol.
      Thanks for the SfEx love!!!

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  3. Yay! I LOVE this post!! I'm drafting a retelling right now :)

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    1. Oooooh SO FUN. It's challenging but a great experience. Good luck!

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  4. Good luck! I can't wait to read it someday. Math nerds ftw.

    I've always wondered... what is harder about writing a retelling, and what is easier? Maybe a good blog post topic (hint hint).

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    1. Thank you sweetie!

      I'll be posting MANY more. I have all the thoughts. ;)

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  5. First of all, your book sounds awesome! I've got to read it when it comes out, because my husband is a High School Algebra teacher, who coaches his own team of Mathletes!

    I love reduxes of all kinds - Mythology, classical Literature, and especially fairy tales. Some of my favorite ft reduxes include Cinder and Jackson Pearce's two books - Sisters Red and Sweetly. I also love Bill Willingham's Fables series. His novel, Peter & Max, has an awesome take on The Pied Piper.

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    1. YES! Jackson Pearce! I love her!!!

      Maybe your husband can help me with edits. Though I DID consult a math teacher. Swear. ;)

      Thanks for commenting! <3

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  6. I think it's a mark of great writing and universality when a book, play, or story can be retold in a much different era or culture, and still hit the mark with the new audience. Some of my favorite retellings are Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood (Macbeth) and Ran (King Lear). The stories are just as relevant and gripping in feudal Japan as they are in the original English settings.

    Someday I'd love to try a retelling of The Ramayana from Sita's POV.

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    1. Exactly! Maybe that's how we know that, in the end, the good stories will always survive. :D

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  7. Awesome post. I think we also like retellings so much because it's like visiting an old friend instead of trying to reinvent the wheel (excuse the cliche). But in doing a retelling it leaves so much room for fun and surprise twists. So while some of the story is familiar the rest remains open to interpretation which not only makes it fun for the writer but also for the reader.

    Good luck with SfEx out on submission. Hopefully one day I will get to see it on the shelves and read it :)

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    1. Yes! And you know, writing it is like that too - catching up with an old friend. Exactly right.

      Thank you so much! I'm hoping to be able to introduce a new generation to this awesome Austen. :D

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  8. Oh my gosh! Good luck!!!!! My fingers are soooooo crossed for you, gorgeous girl! I've heard this book is ah-mazzzzzing...

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    1. Hahahah you've been talking to Darci, haven't you? *wink* Best. Cheerleader. Ever.

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  9. Oh, that sounds so good! Mathletes. Awesome. (My brother coaches math league and I coach speech. We are truly a family of nerds.)
    I do love retellings when they are well done. It's fun to see a story we love retold in a completely new way. Good luck with yours!

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    1. I seriously did not know that mathletes were this common LOL. Wow.

      Thank you so much, dear! :D

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  10. I didn't go for a full-on retelling in my latest ms, but it was inspired by North and South. Having a basic framework to go off was so helpful, and then I got to do whatever I wanted from there. :) good luck with solving for ex! I remember when you first posted your mock-cover on your blog. I've wanted to read it ever since!

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