Writing by Hannah Forsdike // photograph by Chiara Baldassarri
I’ve loved creative writing since I was a child, scrawling short stories in sparky notebooks. I was an opportunistic little writer, looking for an excuse to turn every writing project into an elaborate story telling moment or a chance to re-imagine a familiar narrative.
In the second grade my class was assigned a simple writing task on the last day of school before the Easter holidays, we were told to write a letter to the Easter Bunny telling them what kind of chocolate we wanted for Easter. I took the opportunity to reinvent the story of the Easter bunny, creating a story about the origins of the magical rabbit.
A quintessential creative writing activity I’ve seen revived in High School English classes and University Creative Writing courses, is to take a story you know and re-imagine it. Like a fractured fairy tale– or fan fiction.
There are a number of easy ways to re-imagine a well-known story. You could tell the story from a different perspective, or tell the story of an under appreciated character; imagine the well loved Snow White fairy tale and all the events surrounding it through the eyes of the huntsmen or Batman’s origin story from the perspective of the thief who murdered his parents. You could change a key element, like setting the story in a different era or changing the intentions of the main characters. Or you could use the characters and plot as a blueprint to tell a different story all together, the same way Fifty Shades of Grey is a reinvention of Twilight. You can thank these literary maneuvers for modernised Shakespeare featuring a handsome, young Leo DiCaprio and your favorite raunchy fan fiction on Tumblr.
The literary term for this technique is Intertextuality; when a text is shaped by another text. The above might seem like a silly class room writing activity, but great writers always let themselves be inspired by other texts.
Consider this a challenge to the writers amongst us in the era of self-isolation, desperately seeking inspiration and motivation; take a story you know and find a new angle.[share]