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Guest Blogger S. Kyle Davis: Authorship

Please give a warm welcome to guest blogger S. Kyle Davis. Kyle has a fabulous website and newly created blog you should definitely visit. Enjoy!


In a Word: Authorship

Authorship is an odd word, one that, for us wordsmiths, conjures up the image of Dickens, Shakespeare, Austin, and Whitman sailing off into the sunset together for fame and pirate glory. (Oo! Book idea!) But more than an odd word, it’s also an odd and slippery concept.

What does it mean to be an author? The term has changed so much. These days it means you’re “published.” Anyone else who writes, whether they have completed anything or not, is merely an “aspiring” author. I’ve written a whole blog post about this concept, so I’ll spare you all the rehash.

My personal issues with the moniker “aspiring” aside, the issue is still odd. One thing that has really changed in the last 100 years or so is the author’s importance. The author is king these days... well, we don’t have kings anymore, we have celebrities, and that’s pretty true too. J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer make E! News on a regular basis. And have you seen the James Patterson commercial?

But that’s not what I’m talking about, really. What I mean is that the author’s opinion on their own work is king, and all work is sacrosanct. These days, you wouldn’t dare take someone else’s story and rewrite it to make it better. A few hundred years ago, that would be THE thing to do. Shakespeare made his entire career out of it, just to name one. These days, you’d just get sued (especially if you touch the work of a certain sue-happy Scottish writer we all know and love).

So maybe you can’t pick up your favorite “dirty secret” novel (that pulpy novel you love, despite the terrible prose) and rewrite it so that it finally actualizes its potential... at least not if you want your writing to see the light of day. However, if you go back a bit in time and find something in the public domain... things are free game.

I’m not talking about being inspired by a story, or “retelling” it in a different time period (ala 10 Things I Hate About You, a movie I can, sad to say, quote at length*). I’m talking about taking the actual text (Project Gutenberg would be helpful here) and injecting your own writing. Make it up to date. Change the time setting maybe, or add aliens. Or zombies. Whatever your heart desires. Make the story your own.

It’s a tough and gutsy thing to do. If you don't do it right, readers will hate you. There are only two ways it would work:

1) Take something unknown and pulpy and make it relevant and interesting.

2) Take something extremely well-known (in the manner of the fore-linked Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) and be completely irreverent with the source text. The more readers can tell you’re having fun, the better.

It is perhaps possible to be reverent to a well-known source text and not have readers hate you. However, in order for them to know you’re not so arrogant as to think you can improve on Jane Austin, you will need to change it up a lot. And I mean, a lot. As in, bring on the aliens, or at least a modern prep school with plaid skirts. Something.

Anyway, I hope you find this as inspiration. Break free of the “king author” mindset, and rip some classic work of literature to shreds.

Shakespeare would be proud of you.


*For example: "I'm down. I got the 411, and you're not going and getting jiggy with some boy. I don't care how dope his ride is. My mamma didn't raise no fool."

14 comments:

PJ Hoover said...

I LOVE the ideas for inspiration!

Heather Kelly said...

What a good exercise. Thanks, S. Kyle. I'm enjoying your blog, and am busy reading back posts!

Anonymous said...

Austen, not "Austin". Austin is the capital of Texas, or a pro wrestler, or the six million dollar man. It's a nit, but I have to pick it.

Otherwise, good post.

Stina said...

Thanks for the great suggestion. That's a source of inspiration I hadn't even dwelled on.

Kelly Polark said...

I'm a fan of parody, so I do take certain stories or songs and change it up, but I've never written a whole book inspired by another one!

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Way to step out of the box. Make us think. Thanks.

Lisa Nowak said...

Interesting idea. Not something I feel inspired to take on at the moment, but it's fun to think about.

Tahereh said...

SO COOL CASEY!! thanks so much for sharing. this was a great post!

<33 youuuu

Ann Marie Wraight said...

Fun idea - kind of;
ODE TO PARODY

Oh, how thou dost blaspheme!
In sooth, it makes me truly scream
Should AustEn hear her name mispelt
A lawsuit nowadays would be dealt
Fear NOT dear writer thou shouldst know
Thy name and blog can only grow!!

Thanks , a fun idea and I'm certainly a new follower of your blog!

Unknown said...

Thanks everyone for your kind comments. Glad you found it inspiring.

And I'm sorry for the Austin Austen thing. I do that all the time. Could I blame it on being a Texan, perhaps? How about being a dumb male?

Casey Something said...

Thank you again for the great post, Kyle. If you want me to fix the Austin-Austen typo, I'd be more than happy to!

Ann Marie Wraight said...

I wouldn't worry too much about
spelling someone elses name wrong. Just lately I have found myself spelling my OWN name as Wright (it's actually WrAight)-most people cut the 'a' because the name is so unusual and it's rubbed off on me!!
Now how dumb is THAT??! It has nothing to do with gender!

Anonymous said...

Gasp! Rip classic literature to shreds!?

(That was the initial reaction. The secondary one was some finger-wiggling ala Mr. Burns and the word "Fun!")

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

this was great - thanks casey :)