Monday, March 29, 2010

Flattery will get you everywhere...

Continuing on a thought from yesterday, after broaching the subject of the Companion novel it seems only natural to mention the odd success that adaptations enjoy. Adaptations are not in the same league as companion novels though many would be quick to loop them into the same category. Truthfully, adaptations, while operating on some of the same guidelines as Companion novels, have a great deal more freedom in their construction. And speaking of the construction analogy here, if a companion novel is an attempt to build something new in an already constructed universe, an adaptation, or retelling is basically knocking the old universe down and building something new fangled on its sturdy foundation. The same characters might be there, but they have been outfitted with new personalities, new clothes, new time period, new motivations, and so on. This is why adaptations are so popular, and also the secret to their success. When a writer sets out to retell an old story, they don't set out to continue it as writers of companions do; instead they set out to create something new, with a few bits of borrowed material.

Indeed, I think the success formula of adaptations is that they bring a level of familiarity, even comfort to the reader while creating a new story. Plus adaptations are expected to take interesting liberties with the characters they are borrowing for their piece. Frank Beddor took extreme liberties in his Looking Glass Wars trilogy, blending science fiction and fantasy elements to create a very unique version of the Alice in Wonderland story. There is mystery series featuring the charming duo of Mr. and Mrs. Darcy as a pair of genteel sleuths. Not to mention the fifty or so different versions which borrow the lovers for various works of romance, chic lit, and other genres it has actually become difficult to remember how the real Mr. and Mrs. Darcy behaved, though the romances are interesting. An even more reproduced set of characters would be the knights of Arthurian legend. There have been retellings of Arthurian legend in every century, including this one, such as the very memorable Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, I wonder if any of the creators of the original characters were still alive to see their creations behaving as such what they would have to say to such a statement then. Somehow I don’t think Austen would necessarily be pleased with Mr. Darcy in a few of the romance novels I have come across, then again….she might.

1 comment:

Karen Romano Young said...

How about Pride and Prejudice with Zombies? For what reason do I find that a highly satisfying concept?

Have you had the experience of getting to the end of a wonderful movie and watching the credits right down to the medallions because you're hoping for another glimpse? And isn't it great when you get one at the very end of the credits -- or when they show you some other scene over the credits?

I think that the best stories demonstrate an economy. I've read Pride and Prejudice about 79 times, and it never fails to keep me roaring through it right up until the end when -- after all that build up and suspense between Lizzie and Darcy -- you get really very little denouement, very little payoff. This is why you have all these sequels -- and even the tacked-on scene in the Keira Knightley U.S. version showing kisses on the balcony at Pemberley. I think most of them feel excessive and "off"...

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