Reviving Classics

By Ailyn Koay–

Since the rewriting of Snow White’s story showed on screen, followed by Hansel and Gretel, many authors have embarked on the retelling bandwagon. I have enjoyed countless rewrites of my favorite classics; from author Marissa Myers, who wrote the Lunar Chronicles that include titles Cinder, Scarlett, Cress, and Winter which is due out soon, to Heather Lyon’s The Collector’s Society series.

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I like rewrites, if the author is skillful, the story will remind the reader of the themes, but will remain separate enough to distinguish itself to be a separate entity. If you are aiming to revive a story, the important thing to remember is that successful stories are the ones that whisper their associations to the original source; it is the readers that make the connection. Cinderella lost a shoe; Linh Cinder from Cinder lost her leg…

There are authors who are good at extrapolating stories–Never Never by Brianna Shum is quickly gaining popularity despite the fact that it is due to be published September 22nd. The synopsis grips an interested reader–James Hook before he was a pirate? How interesting. Using extrapolation gains you unique points, because it is an unexplored time before the story begins.

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Then there is Heather Lyon’s The Collectors’ Society series, where Heather skillfully weaves a story of characters that takes place after their original stories are done. The story starts with Alice Reeves, and there she meets Van Brunt, Finn, and many other characters from various ‘time lines’. Lyon hit the jackpot: this is the first series that I have read that uses these well-known characters in a new way. It frees you up to move the characters forward to a story that you want, yet still allows you the safety of returning to the past should you wish to revisit some of their past traumas.


No matter who you pick, when it comes to introducing a well-known character into your story, the main thing is to check that the copyright to the book and its contents allow you to do so. Since there are many new rewrites about Alice in Wonderland, Snow White, Cinderella and other fairy tales, I hazard a guess that they are fair game; but be wary if you want to use someone else, like Stephen Salvatore from Vampire Diaries–you might run into some trouble if you use it without permission.

Should you rewrite a classic? Of course you should! First of all, everything is set for you: characters, story, and setting; many authors choose to keep the characters and some of the plot but to create new settings and narratives. Check out the children’s book The Wolf’s Story by Toby Forward. It might be a child’s book, but it shows how a change in narrative changes your perception of a story that you have known so well before.

Finally, there are many classics that are older than the popular ones. As a multilingual reader, I assure you that you can find many interesting stories that will spark your imagination for a retelling, because I think Alice is getting sick of being retold.

Ailyn Koay


Reviving Classics is writ­ten by: Ailyn Koay. You can find more from Ailyn at her blog, Penny For My Thoughts.

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