Friday, June 4, 2010

I'm #1... Chronologically, Anyway

So my husband comes home last night with crawfish gelato.

That's right, I said CRAWFISH GELATO. That he made at work. On purpose. And it was good. We tried it, we liked it, and then he turns to me and says:

"I think I might just be the first person to make crawfish gelato, ever."

He's probably right, and he should be freaking proud of his accomplishment. He's been a chef half his life and this is the first time he's ever had the opportunity to say he's probably the first to do something.

That got me thinking, as is my wont...

There's been a lot of buzz lately about retold stories—see the DGLM blog post here. I've blogged about this before, and even tried my hand (and failed spectacularly) at one.

I don't mind reading a retold story. One of my favorite books of the past few years is Danielle Joseph's Shrinking Violet, which is more or less a Cinderella story. I haven't read Melinda Lo's Ash, but I imagine that the two stories are very different even though they are both basically derived from the same source. How hard could writing a retold story be, I thought?

Technically, Evangeline is sort of a retold story. It's loosely based on the Longfellow poem by the same name, in which a young woman loses her love during the Acadian diaspora and travels across the country to find him. I could have stuck with this plot, but instead—since I'd already decided this would be a time-travel romance before I'd even named the mc—I decided to change things to suit the story that was forming in my head.

Taking a loose idea and turning it into something completely new is much easier for me than, say, when I tried to rewrite Hansel and Gretel. I just couldn't figure out what else to do once I got them to the witch's house. I wanted to depart from the expected there, too, but I had no idea how to do that while still being true to the nature of the story. I wanted it to be about the kids tricking the witch instead of being eaten by her, but my mind kept trying to move AROUND the existing plot, not enliven what was already there.

That's when I realized I'd rather be writing something new, something exciting to me, something no one's ever written before.

I want to be the first!

The problem with that in writing is, well, are my ideas really that original? I guess the real question is, does anyone care if the story is written well and has engaging characters?

How important is being original? Does it really matter in the long run? What are your thoughts on the subject?

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