Southern belle with a story to tell. Refreshing iced tea served after literary punches thrown.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Retelling the Tale!

What the blarney's in that jar?  Why is he dancing?  Read on and find out!
Pardon the dancing leprechaun.  I'm ready for February to be over and for March to come in like a lion, bringing with it the warmth of spring...and of course a beach for my spring break!

In the next few paragraphs you'll figure out why the Irish dude is dancing, but for now, let's turn to the topic of creativity in our manuscripts.

I have a confession for you, and if you're truly honest with yourself, you will admit the same damned thing.  As a writer, I desperately want to believe that 100% the ideas for the manuscripts I create are unique and totally mine.  And in truth they are, but on some minuscule level they may remind you of another work.  After all, there are only so many ways we can present a story of good versus evil or of love and heartbreak.

Alas, such is the art of storytelling.

And in recent years, we've seen unique twists on familiar tales.  We've witnessed the bloodsuckers of Bram Stoker's Gothic nightmares morph into a pop-culture phenoms, taking the form of angst-ridden, teen vampires that sparkle in the sunlight.  Soon in theaters, we'll get a retelling of a childhood bedtime story,  Jack and the Beanstalk, and who can forget 2012's "Snow White and the Huntsman"?

Anyhow, what I'm getting at,  is we're all on some level retelling one or more elements in the stories we write.  But if you are a writer who plans on undertaking the monumental task of actually retelling a classic tale, then make damned sure your story is unique.  Make it shine or sparkle (like a thousand year old teen vampire!) and put your own unique twists and turns in the plot.  Throw us for a loop and make it sing with creativity.

To drive my point home, I'm going to let you listen to the musical retelling of a famous Irish folk tale.  It's about a highwayman who robs the wealthy Captain Farrell, steals his gold, and brings it home to his wife.  However in a bitter twist of fate we find out the wife was actually schtupping Captain Farrell on the side.

So what does a betrayed highwayman do?  He shoots the guy, and then loses both the girl and the gold and eventually his freedom.  At the end, we sadly discover he's singing us this song from inside the cell of an Irish prison.  Sniff, sniff, tear.

Let's listen to this song, sung by two very very different bands.

In the first song, rejoice in the gorgeous Irish countryside and marvel at the simplistic melodies of the Dubliners (circa early 1960's).

Now crank it to eleven and hold your lighter high and dance like a tipsy leprechaun to Metallica's version of the very same song.  

Now you get it, right?  Well, maybe you understand everything in our fun little video exercise, except for say,  the line in the song that says "Wack for my daddy-o".  What the Blarney does that mean anyway?

We've heard two versions of the same song.  Both songs work perfectly, but in completely different ways.  They're re fantastic and engaging, but very, very different.

In closing, you will use similar themes in your writing, but dare to find a way to make your tale incredibly unique.  Make it yours! Only the character names, situations,  and story worlds differ.


T.J. said...

I do agree. There are only so many basic plots. It's everything around it that makes it unique :)

Alan said...

Yes, like T.J., I'm in agreement too. The clay is the same, but the uniqueness comes from the creator who molds the clay. Your point is well taken, and how clever of you to demonstrate it further with music. Happy writing!