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Thread: Re-tellings

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Re-tellings

    In following #MSWL, one thing I see over and over is a request for "re-tellings" of this or that. I'm fiddling around with a story of three disparate kids who come together and find a treasure, then go their separate ways and do different things with their shares. (A friend tells me that's a "cursed treasure" trope? I suppose it depends on what happens to the kids?)

    Only two possibilities occur to me for this story as a re-telling. One is the Deathly Hallows, but I was also thinking about The Sorcerer's Apprentice (where Balthezar, Horvath and Veronica all receive teachings from Merlin).

    In my story, 3 teens (15 or so) come together during the California Gold Rush. Their story is told through an oral history, a found journal, and a long-delayed letter. The mystery is solved/treasure rediscovered by 4 current-day tweens, who are of course having their own dramas.

    So, would this be a re-telling? And/or of what theme, do you think? I'm having a hard time getting this off the launch pad, because I don't know where I'm going.

    Any insights would be appreciated!

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW heza's Avatar
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    Well, if the treasure that the first three found is actually cursed or if having found the treasure leads them off into dark paths of misfortune, then I suppose it could be a cursed treasure trope. If the kids are fine and the treasure was a good thing, then no.

    Three people finding a treasure always reminds me of Three Brothers stories. There's a tradition of folklore in many different cultures that deal with competition of three brothers in splitting a treasure, getting the hand of a fair maiden, inheriting property, getting wishes, etc. The two older brothers generally make poor decisions and come to some kind of folly, but the younger brother, bestowed with whatever virtue the story promotes (charity, bravery, etc.) ends up with the better deal.

    If that fits, it could be a three brothers type story. I wouldn't make a retelling comparison of the historical part unless that part is a very significant part in the narrative and not just a backdrop for the present-day story.

    Also, for a retelling, it's meant to be a retelling of fairy tales, folklore, and other stories that are part of the public domain. You don't want to claim that your story is a retelling of a copyrighted work (so definite no on retelling the Deathly Hallows or the Sorcerer's Apprentice [movie]).

    Your story doesn't HAVE to be a retelling, and if it's not (i.e., you didn't intend for it to be and you weren't inspired to retell a specific story), then I wouldn't try to make it fit just so you can point to a #MSWL label. An agent will be able to tell if the link is a weak one.


    ETA: I also meant to say that, imo, you don't call out your tropes or general themes in the query letter (unless the themes are unusual). Like, you would say "This is a modern retelling of Jack and the Bean Stalk", but you wouldn't say, "This is a retelling of the cursed treasure trope," or, "this is a retelling of the importance of family theme." Themes and tropes are just things that exist in a story; they aren't re-imaginings of a specific, previous work.
    Last edited by heza; 11-13-2017 at 11:03 PM.
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  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW GeneBWell's Avatar
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    Agree 100% with Heza: if you didnít start out this story with the intent of making it a retelling of something, you definitely shouldnít try to force it into that tag.

    That said, and on the general subject of retellings, someone really needs to do a retelling of Monteiro Lobatoís SITIO DO PICAPAU AMARELO. Itís a tragedy it hasnít received as much international attention as other, similar tales (Alice and Oz being the closest in kind), and I think itíd be pretty fun to do a modern/alternate take on it.

  4. #4
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Thank you both for your comments! I think the reason I'm having a hard time starting is because I'm trying to force the story into a box. I'm just going to write the story for fun, and see where it takes me.

  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeneBWell View Post
    That said, and on the general subject of retellings, someone really needs to do a retelling of Monteiro Lobato’s SITIO DO PICAPAU AMARELO. It’s a tragedy it hasn’t received as much international attention as other, similar tales (Alice and Oz being the closest in kind), and I think it’d be pretty fun to do a modern/alternate take on it.
    You're definitely right about the "[not] as much international attention"; this is the first time I've even heard of it. Now I'm going to have to look it up.

  6. #6
    figuring it all out
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    Hi Cindy.

    my take re the concept of retelling', is a new or different angle or viewpoint on a stand trope. For example, there's a recent YA novel out that views the events in the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of one of Cinderella's 'ugly' sisters.

    Hope that helps.

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW GeneBWell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by t0dd View Post
    You're definitely right about the "[not] as much international attention"; this is the first time I've even heard of it. Now I'm going to have to look it up.
    Tragically it has never been translated into English, though it is available in many other languages including its original Portuguese.

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