If you live in North America, you may have noticed McDonald’s newest travesty – the Big Mac Snack Wrap. Yes, they are taking their best-known pseudo diet food and slamming it together with their fattiest offering, mash-up style. We’re just starting to see them down here in the US of A, but Canada seems to have had them for a while now.
When I first heard of the BMSW, my reaction was something akin to BLARGH OH GOD WHY. This seems to be my reaction to an awful lot of new fast food offerings, though I continue to give these places my money. To my credit, I get along just fine with fast food so long as it’s not pretending to be something it isn’t. Like health food. Or haute cuisine.
What does this have to do with writing, you ask? Nothing, really. But is that going to stop me from making an analogy? NOPE!
As a reader, I’m a big fan of story retellings. If a writer can take an old story and rework it into something shiny, I’m in. I especially love getting to poke around inside the head of the original antagonist and hearing how it went down from their point of view. I like it even more when a tale is turned completely on its head – still recognizable when compared to the original work, but taken in a totally new direction.
There is a line between repackaging an old story so that it’s a new story, and relying on something popular to prop up your work. How often do we hear that a new novel is a “modern day retelling of Romeo & Juliet/P&P/The Odyssey/etc.” only to read it and find... no, no it isn’t. It’s a tortilla-wrapped beef patty pretending to be a Big Mac. HA! Worked it in on you when you weren’t even paying attention.
The thing I’m trying to drive at is: you can’t pick some popular classic work to cram into your ill-suited story, or at best it’ll seem like you couldn’t formulate your own plot. At worst, it’ll make people scoff and go, “Really, McDonald’s? You’re sellin’ it, but I’m not buyin’ it.” Don’t make your story pretend to be something it isn’t. If they want to buy a Big Mac, they’ll buy the original.
If you want to rework a classic story, you should have something new up your sleeve – like having Cinderella fall for the huntress instead of the prince. You can’t write a romance that bears no resemblance to Cinderella and then decide to throw in a lost shoe at a big party. Well, you can, but it’s a bad idea. Much in the same way wrapping half a burger and some shredded cheese in a tortilla and acting as though it’s anything like the original is a bad idea.
Just write your story. Don’t try to force in classic plot elements that may not work with the story you’re trying to tell. Have a little faith… your work in progress probably stands on its own just fine.
Show of hands... how many people are going to McDonald’s for lunch/dinner now? Sorry.