What Makes A Good Retelling?

First things first, this post is obviously subjective. But I’ve been reading a few retellings recently, and I’ve had some thoughts. We all love retellings but some tend to work better than others. Comparing the retellings I’ve liked and those I haven’t, there is definitely an aspect that they all share.

Make It Original

So the better retellings could often stand as a book on their own. By that I mean, you don’t need to know the original story- though that can help. They’re books that take the original material but draw something from it that others don’t, or write it in such an AU manner that it feels like something new.

For those who do know the original, there will always be easter eggs. An example I can think of is If The Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy. It’s an adult romance retelling of the Disney version of Cinderella. Did it feel like a traditional Cinderella retelling? Nope. But the character names for various roles, the hints of shoes in an original form… It was just so much fun. It didn’t feel like I was being told the same Cinderella story again. It felt like a brand new book with fun easter eggs in.

Other examples would be Little Thieves by Margaret Owen. It was a retelling of The Goose Girl following the servant rather than the princess. It followed the servant after she’d taken over the princesses life, and I adored it. As well as the hints of the original fairytale, Owen also pulled aspects from Germanic folklore. With the Brothers Grimm being German, this was a nice little bonus and really added to the story.

I mentioned making it AU earlier and, that really is a great way of doing it. Rachel Hawkins adult thrillers have also been retellings, or have at least been drawing in aspects from classic literature. The Wife Upstairs was a Jane Eyre retelling. But one that was completely different to Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood, a YA Ethiopian-inspired fantasy version of the same tale. These two books take from the same source material, but they aren’t the same story.

Retellings can be a lot of fun. For authors, they do give us some source material to pull from and build our worlds and stories on. But that can mean that they can feel very samey. But when you twist what the story is, whether it’s the genre, setting or who it follows, it can become something brand new.

These original feeling retellings are why I still love retellings, and I’m always hoping to find more.

How about you guys? Any recommendations? Let me know down below!

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