1. James Random
    Offline

    James Random Member

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2014
    Messages:
    99
    Likes Received:
    51

    Opinions on an Idea.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by James Random, Nov 14, 2014.

    This is not asking for critique, but asking for an opinion.

    For a little while now I've been working on a project. A book.

    Now in the movie industry they'll take a book, or an old film, and they'll reboot it. Often badly. But the successful ones often make it more relevant, more accessible, and give it the fresh coat of paint that it needs.

    I'm doing the same with a book. Specifically The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. (The title will be H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds).

    It is, perhaps, my all-time favourite story. I love it. But the trouble is that it's just not really that appealing to young adults anymore. Before I embarked upon the project I asked about 400 young SF fans whether they'd read The War of the Worlds. Only about 60 had. I asked them why not. A lot had tried but the answers were always something like 'It's hard to read' or 'it was hard to follow' or 'it wasn't really that enjoyable'.

    I pondered this. Why? Well. Modern standards of writing has a lot to do with it. Modern writing has a much more cinematic narrative style. You can picture the book playing out in your head like a movie. Modern books are more descriptive, the prose more energetic and so on.

    In contrast, The War of the Worlds might feel quite muted. It reads like a memoir, rather than an adventure. That might be quite boring to modern young audiences and the use of language and style not quite as accessible. Practually all of the young adults I did ask said they'd seen the Tom Cruise disaster of a film. A quarter had seen the rather smashing 1953 version and 2 had heard Jeff Wayne's musical.

    So I essentially want to reboot the tale for the 21st century. It'll still be set in Victorian England, still set in Woking and the surrounding borough. All of the details will be the same. But this time it will be told as the tale unfoldes. It will be third person. I will clean it up a bit, update the underpinning science (SF has moved on hand in hand with science fact). Provide better, deeper descriptions of things. I will use a punchy, upbeat narrative to give it some urgency and capture the atmosphere and direness of the event. I will deepen the (admittedly) 2d characters of the original. Particularly the main protagonist. Wells' never really pulled off the idea very well that the main protagonist was trying to save his wife from the Martians for the most part.

    I'm working on licensing. So far the enquiries I've made have been positive. War of the Worlds enters the public domain in 2016 so I may not have to worry anyway.

    So...what do you think to this idea?
     
    daemon likes this.
  2. Okon
    Offline

    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2013
    Messages:
    694
    Likes Received:
    389
    It's an interesting concept. I'd never thought of people doing that for books instead of just movies. However, even though your forum post probably doesn't represent your normal SPAG, I can't see the book being very well accepted. It will always be in the shadow of, and compared to, the original—movie reboots (like you mentioned) are a good example of that.

    I don't understand why you wouldn't just write your own novel that's heavily inspired by the work of H.G. Wells. There would be lots of opportunity to add even more of your own flare, make it modern (meaning easier for youth to relate), and take the story in a direction that man never would have:agreed:.

    Edited to say: Woo. Post #500.
     
  3. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,728
    Likes Received:
    4,826
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    I like the War of the Worlds. But is this what you really want to do?

    This is an old story. Wells' original is a classic. But it's been reinterpreted time and time again. Orson Welles did his radio version (very famously). There was the 1953 movie by George Pal. There was Steven Spielberg's version in 2005. There have been various TV movies and TV shows. There was, as you point out, the Jeff Wayne musical (which I like a lot, BTW).

    This is a story that has been told and told and told. Do you believe you have something else, something new, to bring to it? You'd better, because otherwise, you're wasting your time and your creativity. Are you just trying to rewrite Wells in a more modern language? I think it's a little early for that - I can understand rewriting Beowulf in more modern language, but Wells? Why?

    When I was a kid, I used to be incredibly inspired by the sci-fi I was reading. Sometimes I'd just write stories that were ripoffs of Heinlein and Clarke. But I don't think I ever tried to rewrite one of their stories. Ripoffs, yes, copies, no. Since I went through puberty, not even ripoffs. ;)

    Why are you trying to rewrite Wells, instead of taking inspiration from him?
     
  4. James Random
    Offline

    James Random Member

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2014
    Messages:
    99
    Likes Received:
    51
    @Okon

    Well I didn't want to write something that would be construed as a rip-off. I wanted to write something that was faithful and respectful to the original. The idea isn't to supercede the original, but get people - young people - interested in it again. I don't mind people comparing it. I'm also working on my own, a non-fiction (again for young adults) called Things That Are True (From a Certain Point of View). More on that later.

    @minstrel
    Yeah it's been told and told. But not told well. I want to re-tell it faithfully, accurately, but in a way that engages better with a modern audience of young SF readers. The Spielberg version was, frankly, a travesty. The 1953 version was good, but few kids watch it. And, be honest, how many young adults do you know who have listened to the Orson Welles version? No, what is needed is a coating of vibrancy. And, frankly, I'm re-writing it because it's my favourite story of them all. I am Henry Ford working on the Model B.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  5. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,685
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Interesting notion, except that it was also Henry Ford who'd come up with the Model A. If it were me, I wouldn't spend my valuable creative time trying to give an old work a "coating of vibrancy", but we each make that decision for ourselves. It does sound like it might be a fun project to work on, and possibly a good exercise, but I wouldn't count on it advancing my career or stature as a writer, or any commercial success.

    Of course, old works have "inspired" new ones before. Romeo and Juliet begat West Side Story. But such works come about, not by trying to tell the original tale "faithfully", but by adapting the basic premise to new and different circumstances. We know much more about the science of space travel than we did when Welles wrote the original (which may be a major reason why it struggles for relevance today). So, it's not just the language that needs to be updated, but the world in which it takes place. I didn't like the 2005 version any more than you did (and probably less, as I detest Tom Cruise), but that's what Spielberg was trying to do. My advice, if you go forward with this, is to focus on expressing Welles' idea in a new and different story. You may want to check out both works in my example to get an idea of what I mean.

    Good luck.
     
    minstrel likes this.
  6. James Random
    Offline

    James Random Member

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2014
    Messages:
    99
    Likes Received:
    51
    Granted, but other people came up with other cars eventually!

    It's really a hobby. On-the-side. My main book is still on the front burner.


    I understand your meaning. I think my plan is to do the initial idea faithfully. See what I can do with it where it goes. If it's a disaster, then I can easily re-write it again with some new twists and a more modern setting. But the more I do that the more it just feels like a rip off.
     
  7. tonguetied
    Offline

    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 23, 2014
    Messages:
    548
    Likes Received:
    219
    Location:
    Near Atlanta
    If you plan to keep to the original concept it would seem like a mistake. However if say you landed a probe on Mars, took some soil samples and brought them back where the samples had microbial life forms that destroy our civilization, etc., etc. you might have a nice twist and still have something along the lines of the original.
     
  8. marshipan
    Offline

    marshipan Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2013
    Messages:
    84
    Likes Received:
    28
    I think it's a great idea. Though I'm unsure how successful it would be in it's aims to interest a generation where the original version failed. I think it could be successful if you can sell it to a GREAT publishing company who will market the crap out of it. Beyond that I'd only bet on big fans of the original (like yourself).
     
    Bjørnar Munkerud likes this.
  9. Bjørnar Munkerud
    Offline

    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2012
    Messages:
    393
    Likes Received:
    140
    Location:
    Oslo, Norway
    I'm optimistic about this. I like cool projects like this, ones that are inspired and inspirational at the same time. My only worry is that the truth of the matter is that people don't really like the original story all that much. Like my constant suspicions that Shakespeare is only seen as great because he was essentially the first to do what he did. But, regardless, this is something we'll find out once and for all if you do a good job with this. :) Good luck.
     
  10. cutecat22
    Offline

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2014
    Messages:
    2,434
    Likes Received:
    1,063
    Location:
    England
    I love The War Of The Worlds.

    I've read the book, I have a CD of the Welles radio play. I have both versions of Wayne's musical version and I have the original on vinyl with the full colour art booklet. (And I've seen the films too).

    So all I want to say is, don't ruin it like they did with the TV mini series!
     
  11. James Random
    Offline

    James Random Member

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2014
    Messages:
    99
    Likes Received:
    51
    I don't think even Dan Brown could do that badly.


    I have had the idea of actually using H.G. Wells as the main protagonist. At the moment the protagonists name is Henry. It could easily be Herbert.
     
  12. cutecat22
    Offline

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2014
    Messages:
    2,434
    Likes Received:
    1,063
    Location:
    England
    Oh I don't know! I've read all Dan's books except Inferno. I just can't get into that at all but going back to your idea, there's only one way to find out and that's to write it ...
     
  13. daemon
    Offline

    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2014
    Messages:
    1,361
    Likes Received:
    982
    I like the idea in principle.

    Assuming War of the Worlds is conceptually a brilliant story with the potential to benefit the life of someone who reads it (I have no opinion one way or the other; it has been too long since I read it), you have the potential to make a significant contribution to the world. Primarily, you present that brilliant, life-altering story to more people (more is better); furthermore, if you happen to write a higher quality book than the original, then you advance the literary art itself.

    The idea is close to my heart because I am doing something very similar. In my case, the source material is a recently written fanfic, my goals are slightly different (I intend to turn a good fanfic into a great book, not to take a great book and make it more appealing to kids), and my book will go straight into the public domain (for many reasons). But otherwise, we are in exactly the same boat, right down to the fact that we are writing derivatives of our favorite works of fiction. So it is my pleasure to encourage any project like the one you describe.

    That is just in principle, ignoring the specifics. But taking the specifics into account:

    How long have you had this idea? Unless you have had it for at least half a year and you have already developed it significantly (with outlines, character sheets, maybe a draft chapter or two, etc.), my intuition says you will eventually lose interest in doing exactly what you describe in the OP. As you put thoughts on paper, see how they look on paper, and revise your work in order to tell the best story you can possibly tell, you will find there is a certain story you want to tell, and it will probably be quite different from WotW.

    I say that because of how you talk about the project in the OP. You are not motivated by the prospect of cashing in on a ready-made genre audience for a quick buck; you are motivated by a genuine love of a good story and a genuine desire for other people to enjoy it, too. Therefore, your desire to tell a good story is what gives you the actual motivation to follow through. Writing a novel is exhausting, even if it is derived from a prior novel, and you will lose interest and quit unless something in addition to the initial enthusiasm keeps pushing you past that initial phase of falling in love with a neat idea.

    In my experience, the desire to tell the story I want to tell pretty quickly takes over the desire to play the role of a promoter of a story that has already been told. In the 5 months since I had the idea to rewrite the fanfic, my vision for my novel has shifted drastically. Originally, I considered my novel purely a "humanification" of the fanfic (which takes place in a cartoon world where the characters are not humans), with as few changes as possible. But over the months, incremental changes have crept into my mental model of the story. Two characters get merged. Then a character gets introduced. Then a plotline gets removed. Then a character gets removed because she was only relevant in that plotline. Then the protagonist's backstory changes. etc. At this point, if I just write the novel without making any more changes to the framework, then it will still be clearly recognizable as a derivative of the fanfic, but it will only be about as similar to the fanfic as any given episode of BBC's Sherlock is to the respective novella that inspired it (e.g. The Reichenbach Fall to The Final Problem). If I keep changing the framework at this rate (which I am giving myself the freedom to do), then I will probably end up with something with no recognizable similarities to the fanfic other than the metaphysical plot mechanism that changes the protagonist's life (kind of like a novel where the protagonist sees what the world would be like if he had never been born, and that is the only recognizable similarity to The Greatest Gift). Which is totally fine with me, as long as what I come up with is actually better.

    Another reason you might lose interest (and either give up or cause the project to evolve into something much different) is that, as you study the original in order to be faithful to it, you will discover how the parts work together in a way that simply would not work the same if they were taken apart, rearranged, and put back together in a modern adaptation. You said you are not bothered by the thought of critics comparing your book to the original, but if your experience is anything like the experience I have had in the past 5 months, then your enthusiasm will constantly be put to the test by the fear that your book will end up being "that book that's just like War of the Worlds except not as good". It will be tempting to compromise by spending your time encouraging kids to read what is already out there (and to use things like Orson Welles' performance to get them hooked) rather than writing yet another book for them to read.

    That is the meaning I get from @Okon's statement that a derivative of WotW will live in the shadow of WotW, and it would probably kill my enthusiasm pretty quickly.

    However, my case is different. Your source material, not speaking of its actual quality (which I have no opinion of), is well-established literature, taught in schools and universally recognized. If a derivative of it is written, then, not speaking of the quality of the derivative, it is easy for a naysayer to dismiss it and say "just read War of the Worlds instead" (in the same way one might encourage a student to read the unabridged version of a long classic novel instead of an abridged version.) It is easy to recommend WotW to people with a straight face. Not so with my source material, which is a My Little Pony fanfic almost as long as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Due to its very genre, it is guaranteed never to catch on with the public, which gives me a persistent "it is up to me to present this story to the public" sort of sense of purpose, plus a "if you want to read a LotR-length My Little Pony fanfic, then be my guest" sort of response to the inevitable criticism that my book is "just a ripoff", which I would not have when writing a WotW derivative.

    Anyway, I have two main recommendations:

    1. Give yourself freedom. When (not if) you encounter ideas for diversions from the source material that you would rather write about than the source material itself, by all means, write what you want to write. That is probably the only way you can stay motivated to write. Furthermore, when you write exactly what you want to write, you will probably write it better.

    2. Re-read the original and hold off on writing. That is what I have been doing, and it has worked wonderfully. I made a schedule to re-read the fanfic in exactly six months, pacing myself deliberately, while digesting the hell out of it by writing marginal notes, an essay-like review of each chapter, a Cliffs Notes-like summary of each chapter, a scene-by-scene outline, and a chapter-by-chapter outline. This process has made me intimately familiar with what works and what does not work in the fanfic. It has reminded me of every little thing I love about the fanfic. It has put me on many trains of creative thought (e.g. "how would I do this better" or "what would I do instead of this") that has resulted in the bulk of the ideas I want to implement in my own novel. Above all, forcing myself not to write any of my own work for six months has resulted in an incubation period during which all possibilities are fair game and the best ideas rise to the surface and command my attention, rather than the ideas I happen to invest effort into. (Clarification: I do jot ideas down in separate documents, but I have not tried to put them together into something that works.) Granted, this fanfic is 7 times as long as WotW, so you would be done with WotW in less than a month if you read it at the same pace. The pace is actually a bit fast for me, and I keep falling behind; at the ideal pace, I think it would take me at least a year to finish it (which means two months to finish WotW). You will often find yourself on a roll and you will be tempted to get ahead of schedule -- resist that temptation! The purpose of the exercise is to force yourself to take the time to think about things that, upon first glance, do not seem to warrant further attention.
     
  14. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,247
    Likes Received:
    1,811
    Location:
    Australia
    I have a version of The Illiad that was re-written in contemporary style. It's alright. I think this could work.

    And fuck no. Do not use H G Wells as the protag. It always shits me when people put famous authors into a movie or book as a character. It's incredibly detracting and adds nothing.

    If this is a reboot and not just a ripoff, use the original character names as much as possible.
     
    cutecat22 likes this.
  15. James Random
    Offline

    James Random Member

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2014
    Messages:
    99
    Likes Received:
    51
    @daemon Thanks, man. I've had the idea for a couple of years. Was always reticent because, well, I never knew how good of an idea it is. In the end I decided to bite the bullet and just get the fuck on with it. There's room for exansion of the tale and the characters, which I'm doing. IE: the character's very personal battle with his views on God and the place of humans in God's Mysterious Plan with the revelation of the Martians upon him, &c. A Martian invasion is an earth-shattering, life changing event. I intend to convey this. The age group (14+) gives me a certain amount of leaway to give the story the amount of maturity it deserves.

    @Selbbin I understand. The original protag of War of the Worlds is unnamed. It's assumed to be Wells himself writing retrospectively, but he never lived in Woking, &c. so I'll stick with Henry for now.
     

Share This Page