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Adaptation of a current story

edited April 2016 in - Writing Problems
Has anyone used a storyline that they have read or seen elsewhere and changed it either because a) they wanted to write their own version of it and the original characters intrigued them as well as the original premise or b) they felt that the way the characters were portrayed didn't seem to ring true to the main idea of the story and they wanted to change it and tell their own story?

What I'm trying to say is that I have a story idea that is linked to something I have seen on television. The general idea is there and it has really interested me, but I would have to change the situation and characters so that it doesn't resemble the original story. The story that I'm intrigued with is loosely based on a novel from the 1700s.

Has this happened to anyone else and how did you go about writing it? All I know is that at the moment the characters and the situation have really interested me, and I need to rewrite their story. I know for a fact that there has been other adaptations of this book and even a Disney film, so it has been done before. I just want to know how you would go about it from a writer's point of view.

I suppose it is like Bridget Jones' Diary being an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Any ideas would be helpful.

Many thanks, Doglover.


  • There are very few really original ideas in literature, only different styles of telling the same story. I have just finished reading A God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson (highly recommended) which is really just a story about a bomber command pilot in World War ll. Except it is so much more than that - Atkinson builds layers and layers around this one theme, exploring what was and is and might have been, so that you're left thinking that it's actually nothing like a World War ll novel at all.

    I would work on an unusual viewpoint - I don't know which novel you're thinking of, but say it was Snow White, then tell the story from the point of view of the evil queen, once a great beauty but now usurped by this young whippersnapper who knows nothing of life, etc. Or bring Moll Flanders bang up to date in a council estate, desperate to get out.

    I've got a problem in a similar vein - I want to use a very well-documented tragedy which happened 20 years ago as a theme for my novel. I've had to change every character's gender, motivations, nationality, mode of death or survival to keep a modicum of respect as it's very recent, without losing the impact of the tragedy. I think I get away with it because the novel is actually more about the aftermath, how it affects survivors, than the details of the tragedy. You could use this ploy - if you've ever read Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys doesn't rehash Jane Eyre but takes some of the characters and tells their back-story. So we recognise the characters of Rochester and his mad wife, but she gives them a completely different viewpoint.

    Good luck, it's been done so many times you wouldn't believe it, so don't think you'll be plagiarising anything - just give it a good twist and shake!
  • Thanks Heisenberg14. It's actually Beauty and the Beast. I wanted to write the love story as more supernatural with him turning into the beast and about them trying to protect each other from people who are hunting him down. The current television programme shows this in its first season. I don't want to copy that though. Which is why I'm trying to change that original premise.
  • edited April 2016
    Beauty and the Beast is a fairy story by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and published in 1740. There was a piece on the 'Today' programme a few weeks ago that suggested that the original story might be 9000 years old

    It's out of copyright.
  • But the modern television programme isn't.

    9000 years old? Wow!

    I'll have to check out the Today programme you speak of.
  • Snailmale, did you mean the radio programme on BBC4?
  • That's it, but B & B was only mentioned in passing in connection with something else.
    I have a vague recollection that it was suggested that it is the oldest known story

    I would think you can do what you like with it
  • There's a difference between 'inspired by' and 'nicked'.
  • That's why I want to change the premise, so I can't be accused of stealing it.
  • I've been seriously thinking about this over the day and finally have the story that is modern and different to the original and the TV programme. It's different and fresh. The only problem is I'm going to have to shelf the idea for now, as I'm still working on my contemporary women's story and when that is finished I have a another story I have started and need completing first before even looking at it.
  • Fairytales are fine, they get reworked all the time so don't worry about that. There's a series of sci fi steampunk tales at the moment that are retold fairytales. It helps if you start out from the original text so you shed any other retellings that might be lodged in your mind.
  • Thanks, Lou. :-)
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