Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Retellings: Angie Thompson and The Good Samaritan

Today's retelling feature is a Biblical retelling!

Meet Angie Thompson...

An avid reader and incurable story-spinner, Angie Thompson also enjoys volunteering in her church’s children’s program and starting (but not always finishing) various kinds of craft projects. She currently lives in central Virginia near most of her incredible family, including two parents, six brothers, one sister, and five siblings-in-law—plus two nieces, five nephews, and several assorted pets!

Website: https://www.quietwaterspress.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/angiethompson 
Angie's Retelling...

Three boys. One choice. No turning back.

Peyton is a rising star in the church who is well on the way to reaching his biggest dreams. Levi is a pastor's son struggling to live up to his faith under pressure from all sides. DaVonte is a kid from the wrong side of town who would be content if he and his friends were just left alone.

When an act of violence presents a sudden decision, each boy's answer will shake the community to its core and shape its future forever. Love and truth face off against fear and pride in this modern extension of one of Jesus' best-known parables.  

Behind the Retelling
A note from Angie...

Thanks so much for having me, Amanda! I'm really looking forward to this series and very honored to be a part of it.

Now, before I begin, I want to take one moment to address the invisible elephant in the room. Okay, maybe not quite invisible, but the one only I can see. Wait, did that sound worse? :D Anyway, I have to be honest--I knew next to nothing about writing a retelling when I started Bridgers (a modern retelling of the Good Samaritan parable). I'd never read or studied or even thought too hard about what made a good retelling. But when the idea hit, I went with it, aided by recollections of retellings I'd read/heard/watched, a large dose of my own imagination, and God. Definitely God, because my story would have gone nowhere without Him!

So this is the point where you either quietly slink away because you realize I am not going to have proven, rock-solid craft tips for you, or you stick around because you realize that the fact that I did it means you can definitely do it too! (I'll give you a second to make up your minds. No judgment; I'll even shut my eyes... ) :D

For those of you who are still here, I hope you're well on your way to the biggest lesson of all--you can do this! It doesn't take mountains of skill and oodles of research; all you need is a story you love, an intriguing "what if?", and an open mind.
The Story

If you're going to do a retelling, definitely pick a story that resonates with you in some way. An author trying to tell a story they don't enjoy is yuck, but an author trying to tell a story about a story they don't enjoy? Double yuck! If you've always felt "meh" about the plot of Cinderella, don't choose it just because it's classic. Find the stories (or parts of stories) that make you prick up your ears. ("Wait, did someone just say 'dragons'?" Or 'outlaws'? Or 'fuzzy animal friends'?) This will be different for each person, but knowing what it is that draws you to the story is crucial to creating a retelling that feels alive and vibrant and not like a cardboard cutout. Remember, too, that even a strong negative reaction can be a jumping-off point for a crucial twist. If you can't get over the feeling that the princess really should have saved the knight in the climax, then maybe that's the story you were meant to write!

For me, there were two things that really caught my attention when I started thinking about the Good Samaritan parable--the heavy animosity between the Jews and Samaritans and the very personal care of the Samaritan for the wounded man. Eventually, both of these pieces not only pushed me to write the story but also heavily influenced the theme, tone, and plot.

The "What If?"

The "what if" question is crucial to any story--at least for me--but it's even more so in a retelling. It's the part that makes the story your own. If you want to write a story about a band of archers living in medieval England who rob from the rich to give to the poor, well, at this point, you don't really have a retelling. Actually, you have...the original. It's the "what if" that makes your story distinct. A "what if" can range from small to huge and any size in between. If you've got a story that grabs you but don't know what to do with it, try playing around with different questions. ("What if the setting was different?" "What if Robin Hood was a girl?" "What if the sheriff's men were secretly working with the outlaws?") Keep at it until you find one (or more) that stick. Just do remember to save enough of the original for people to recognize; if your steampunk heroine doesn't do archery or have a band of loyal friends or work to help the poor, people aren't going to recognize her as a Robin-Hood type, no matter how much green she wears. ;)

For me, there were two big "what ifs" that I worked from while writing Bridgers--the modern-day setting and the teen cast of characters--and both of them had a significant impact on the plot. Just because a setting change sounds like a minor adjustment, don't underestimate all the complications it can bring! But the balance of being true to the original while working out your "what if"--that's where your story really has a chance to shine!

An Open Mind

This last piece is crucial for achieving balance between the original story you love and all the complications that come with your "what if". It's really easy to limit yourself to one set of options--usually the first one that comes to mind. (Priest = pastor, obviously. Donkey = well, it would have to be a car, right? Thieves = uh, thieves, duh...) But before you commit to those choices, sit back and think for a bit. Peel back the layers of the story and make sure there's not another aspect that's more important than keeping a strict one-for-one swap. Would combining characters or tweaking a role or changing the action a bit bring the theme into focus better? Just like you need to be careful not to stray too far from your core concept, you should also be willing to have a light hand on some of the details, or you run the risk of writing a story that feels contrived and doesn't resonate with readers, no matter how close it sticks to the original. Remember, to make your story a good retelling, it also has to be a good story!

There were several places in my own story where looking beyond the obvious choices made for a better or deeper plot point than I had thought of at first. But by far the biggest breakthrough came when I gave myself permission to go beyond the bounds of the original parable and explore what would happen next. At that point, the story exploded (not literally) and gave me some of the best dialogue, the most fun characters, and the most poignant moments in the whole book.

So, there you have it--three of the biggest lessons I learned from writing my own retelling. And since this means you're already a step ahead of where I was when I started, what are you waiting for? Go out and get started already! I can't wait to see all your creative ideas!

Any thoughts, opinions, or arguments? Hit me up in the comments! I'd love to hear what you guys think. :)  


Katja L. said...

I love “Bridgers” so much!!! Great post, Angie!

Angie T. said...

Thanks for having me, Amanda! Looking forward to the rest of the series. :)

A.M. Heath said...

Great post, Angie! Your advice was spot on and I enjoyed every word of it.
And your retelling sounds interesting too.

Kassie said...

Bridgers is amazing, just sayin’... <3 These were super helpful!! Especially the part about changing elements you didn’t like. My family always says I should do a retelling of Little Women without the romance...maybe it could be done...

Angie T. said...

@Katja - Thanks! <3

@A.M. - Thank you! Glad you liked it! :D

@Kassie - Aww, thanks! Oooh, you should try it! ;)

Amanda Tero said...

@ Katja, Kassie - well, apparently I need to try this book out! ;) Oh, my poor TBR... ;P

@ A.M. - agreed!

@ Angie - you're welcome! <3 Thanks for stopping by!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...