Rework the Classics

I have an interesting proposition for you.

Consider one of your favorite classic stories. It can be a book, a movie or even lyrics from a popular song. Anything.

Now think about how you would remake it.

Take that movie, for instance. If you were to remake it, what would you do differently? Maybe it’s animated, so you’d make it live action. Maybe there’s a side character that as a kid you always wondered about, so you’d make him part of the overarching story.

Or that classic book you love. Maybe Emma, by Jane Austen. Or Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. How could you take that classic story and make it original? Maybe you put Emma in a modern-day college. Or Robinson Crusoe goes to an underground world instead of an island.

And a song lyric. What story does it convey? What might you change about it and how would that change affect the story of the rest of the song?

Don’t worry about if it’s been done before. Think about how you would do it. What elements of the story would you change? What would you keep and why? How would you make it more interesting?

My sister and I rewrote Oliver Twist, keeping original character names and attributes, places and dialogue while imagining a twist on the story and made it into a screenplay. We also took a childhood film and wrote a remake, keeping the original story intact while adding deeper characters, and filling in plot holes. On my own, I’ve been taking an old animated film that I love and imagining it as live action. 

This exercise does more than it might appear at first glance. You’re more than just being creative: you have a basic structure to follow, so you have to figure out how to be creative within that structure. You have to keep something of the original story intact. Having a couple of guidelines like that means you have to think harder than if anything goes. You’re learning a very particular kind of creativity.

This is the kind of creativity you’re going to run into in life.

You have to change that marketing campaign, but your boss likes one line of the emails, so you have to work that into your next take.

You need to sell to the same customer, but this time it’s an updated product. How are you going to convince them it’s still worth their money and time?

That company outing you planned has a different timeframe, which means the original place may not work because it closes earlier. Are you still planning on everyone going there, or would somewhere else nearby be a better fit?

Learn how to be creative within a few boundaries. You’ll find it will bring out more creativity than if you had free reign.

Because every story has its limits.

How are you going to work within them?

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