Once more, with a twist: Reimaging classic stories
Marcia Calhoun Forecki
In August, I had the great privilege of participating in the Lincoln City Libraries 2023 One Book-One Lincoln Community Reading Program. Beginning in 2022, the program encourages adults to read and discuss the same book at the same time.
Early in 2023, community readers nominated 125 books and a selection committee narrowed the field to three finalists. The challenge to Lincoln area readers: Read one or all three of the books, and discuss in book clubs, among friends, via social media, etc.
(This is where I came in.)
Larksong Writers Place in Lincoln was asked to provide a writer/moderator for community book discussions on each of the three finalists. I was invited to participate, and chose Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, a re-imaging of the story of Charles Dickens’ classic, David Copperfield.
“I’m grateful to Charles Dickens for writing David Copperfield, his impassioned critique of institutional poverty and its damaging effects on children in his society. Those problems are still with us.”
– Barbara Kingsolver
Instead of Victorian England, with its poor houses and debtors’ prisons, Kingsolver set her story in Appalachia, where she grew up and the opioid crisis began. She drew her characters from people she knew well.
“Good fiction creates empathy. A novel takes you somewhere and asks you to look through the eyes of another person, to live another life.”
– Barbara Kingsolver
A fiction writer’s only power – and it is a strong one – is to inspire empathy in her readers for the people in the story and in the reader’s community and family.
Authors have been rewriting classic stories since shortly after the classics became, well – classics.
First: identify the themes in the classic.
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.
Next: Start to ask questions. Two (actually three) most important words in reimagining are: “What if”and “but”
Then: Follow the logic of the answers to your questions wherever they lead.
(Yes! The creative part. The fun part. It requires no technical skills, just an imagination.)
- What if the story is set in a post-apocalyptic world?
- What if all the water service is destroyed or controlled by gangs/aliens/mole people?
- What if Jack falls because he is spooked, shot, being chased?
- What if Jill kills the water gang or drives them away?
- Jack is saved, the water is saved, BUT, was Jill trying to save Jack or steal the water for herself?