Are Retellings Original? Discussion + News :)

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However, fanfiction should not be published–obviously–because of copyright legally, and because fanfiction writers are taking the creations of someone else, creations that took time and effort and work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.

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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?

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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.

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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 ❤

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34 thoughts on “Are Retellings Original? Discussion + News :)

  1. Ooo I like the blog button, it’s so colourful. Congrats on getting more followers, I guess it means you are doing something right 😁 😁. Well I hardly read retellings so I don’t really have much to say in this discussion. I think I’ll go look for some fairytale retellings to add to my TBR. happy Sunday.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Omg yes! I recently had a discussion about this with my friend. Would it be okay for me to make a reaction post about your post? As I have quite a bit to say 🙂 Also I love the blog button!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with you that I think retellings are different to fanfiction, because retellings can be as loosely or heavily based on the world and characters of the original story as the author likes. I love reading retellings – like you, I love it when an author takes a story I love and puts a completely unique spin on it.

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  4. Frankly, I don’t think retellings are that different from fanfiction, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Fanfiction is such a broad category, ranging from rewriting a scene from a new perspective, to writing a completely new story with the same characters in a new scenario. Which….is basically what retellings are, in my experience. Maybe it’s a little less work because they’re borrowing from another writer and using characters or plot points that have already been laid out, but for both fanfiction and retellings, the work is still there and they can be just as original or cliche as any story.

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  5. Retellings are absolutely original! Honestly, I’ve read some retellings that were even better than the original story. Also. Have you read or seen The 10th Kingdom? It’s not reeeeeally a retelling exactly, but it focuses on AFTER the “happily ever after” in fairy tales and gives a really cool insight to what happened after those stories were over. I haven’t read the book yet, but the mini series is one of my favorite things ever!

    I think your button looks really nice! It’s super cute and colorful 😄

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  6. Woah this is such an interesting topic. I personally love retellings but when there are books that spin their own version of a fairytale, I expect more. I don’t want the same rendition of the story but with just new names. I want something unique: the main character is not as nice as everyone thinks, or there was actually something more sinister in the plot. When I think of fanfiction, I don’t think of fairytale retellings but I can see why they may be considered fanfiction; in both scenarios, you are going into someone else’s created world and manipulating it. But I think the difference with retellings is the amount of manipulation. Retellings can end up being completely different from the original story, or just use the main story as a base or springboard to jump off of whereas fanfiction stays firmly rooted in the world that already exists. Such an interesting post and congrats on getting to that magic number 🙂

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  7. I think with retellings that it can be a fine line. I absolutely love fairytale retellings, but some of them can just be the same exact story as you said with just a few changed names. I think at that point, it’s kind of just copying the story. However, if there are some twists and turns with it and truly makes it original with elements of the original fairytale, then I think it’s totally original and new. I mean, with The Lunar Chronicles, yes, it has girl losing shoe at the ball with a prince falling in love with a commoner that was mistreated by her stepmother, but there was SO much more than that. It had a lot more going on than just the retelling aspect and I mean, Cinder was a cyborg. That made it totally original. I think that’s when fairytale retellings are at their best and what tehy need to be. Wonderful discussion post!

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  8. I love the button and I think you should definitely keep it! Congrats on the magiic numbeer haha ❤ and I believe it depends, some retelling are definitely not well done and they literally just copy the original one. There are others, that use the main essence of the original book and transform it in something beautiful and creative. I definitely believe a retelling can be original!

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  9. I absolutely love fairytale retellings! I agree with you that if the story has become unique, and stands on its own with a hint of the original tale, that it definitely doesn’t fall into the realm of fanfic. I also agree that some do this better than others 😉 Great post!

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  10. Lovely blog button!! I completely agree with your point of view. Fanfiction and retellings are different, but the difference can sometimes be subtle and it’s easy to pass from one to the other.
    Great post! 💛

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  11. To answer the titular question, yes, retellings are original if they are done well. Retellings that fail to further develop the ideas of the original or otherwise add something new, IMHO, are demoted to fanfiction. 🙂

    For instance, I would say that Maleficent was a great retelling of Sleeping Beauty.

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  12. (Sorry for commenting on this a month too late, but as a fan of fairytale retellings and fanfictions I just couldn’t resist)

    I think this discussion is very interesting because in my personal opinion fairytale retellings are essentially socially accepted fanfictions. Possibly because the characters/worlds are public domain and therefore there’s no copyright infringement. Because honestly? Fanfics and retellings are based on a story/world/characters that already exist. How far away from the original story they move depends on the author (and believe me, there are fanfics so far away from the stories they’re based on, the only thing you still recognise are the names, and sometimes not even those). The difference between retellings and fanfics depends probably on your definition of fanfics. Because if you define unpublished works that aren’t meant to be published as fanfics, well, there are probably some retellings out there that fall under that category too… Woops, sorry, this is getting way too long.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No problem; I love all comments no matter how “late” haha. Interesting opinion! I definitely agree that it does depend on your definition of fanfics, which should be different for everyone! And haha I looove long comments ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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