There are so many books in the world (as evidenced by the dreaded gigantic TBR). With so many, it can start to feel like we are reading the same book over and over again (especially a few years ago when dystopia was everywhere lol). As a reader and a writer, I always look for what makes a story truly unique and memorable.
I’m a huge fan of fairytale retellings. If you know anything about me, you’ve probably seen tons of my favorite retellings (The Lunar Chronicles, Ella Enchanted, Wendy Darling, Crimson Bound, etc) popping up in my blog posts, as well as my love of Disney. I’ve always loved the popular fairytales, and hearing the wonderful stories about princesses and knights, quests and spells, etc.
Something that you might not know about me is that I actually write retellings on Wattpad. I’ve read a huge number there, and have interacted with a very supportive community who also loves fairytales. However, I’ve also heard more than a couple people there claiming that retellings are just fanfiction.
For me, fanfiction is going to a world already created by someone else and writing your own story with their creations–usually their characters, although I would consider their world to be fanfiction as well. Retellings are usually of works in the public domain–fairytales, plays, classic novels, etc–and following a similar story line, or maybe alluding to the original tale, while still creating your own characters and world.
I think authors who write fanfiction are wonderful. If someone wrote fanfiction on something I wrote (in my dreams lol), it would be the highest form of praise. Fanfiction writers are still creating a story, weaving together words, and doing what we all love to do–write.
However, fanfiction should not be published–obviously–because of copyright legally, and because fanfiction writers are taking the creations of someone else, creations that took time and effort and work and love to make. No matter how wonderful the plot is, the fact is that fanfiction is not original–the characters are not your own. It takes much less work to not have to set up your own world, and to piggyback off something someone else has created.
Which is where I wonder–where do we exactly draw the line between fanfiction and retellings?
I read a retelling of The Great Gatsby once, Great by Sarah Benincasa, and I really didn’t like it. Not only did it feel really superficial and cheap, it seemed to take everything in Gatsby and just rename them. The green light. The eyes of Dr. TJ Eckleburg. The heat of the day. It wasn’t technically fanfiction, but it definitely didn’t feel like a new story to me. I would not say that that book was unique or original in any way.
In Beastly by Alex Flinn, the Beauty character is very intelligent and studious, and enjoys reading. Wasn’t this a trait of Disney’s Belle, rather than the character in the original BATB fairytale?
I don’t consider either of these to be fanfiction. However, I do think that they’re less original than most stories.
I think it’s really easy for retellings to be less original than other stories. We’ve all read the same tired story of Cinderella going to the ball and losing her shoe so many times. But on the other side, I think that if an author really gives something special extra to a classic tale–gives it an insane twist or set in in an unfathomable world or something–retellings can become amazing, memorable stories that are just as original as any other.
Do you think retellings are less original than other stories? Let’s talk in the comments below 😀
ALSO I just hit magic number 1337 which apparently means something haha I just don’t know but ok 🙂 Thx so much for 1337 ❤