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Adapt or Adios

August 24, 2011


I always wonder about how story templates reflect our cultural and social personalities. If I had to pull from my favorite themes, I’d probably say that the following are most often the ones we reflect on when reading, writing and reviewing:

The Faust
The Odyssey
The Iliad
The Romeo and Juliet
The Dracula
The Orwell
The Dante

Now, of course, so many of these are, you know, like totally modern, like Orwell and, ok, maybe he’s the youngest on the list. Still, these are the timeless forms we use when comparing new stories to the old. We have so many adaptations of “classics” but, truly, the classics, themselves, seem nothing more than adaptations of the old guard.
Before there were the templates above, there were general guidelines for stories like The Adventure Story, The War Story, The Paranormal Story, The Horror Story, The Love Story, The Dystopian Reflection of Our Ongoing Struggle with Power and Control Story.

So how does this play into the way we tell stories, today? It seems as if we retain the classics through their modern manifestations. Through books, movies, music and other art forms, the messages, themes and constants that are able to make their way through to modernity, have popped into pop culture. James Blunt’s haunting bit, referencing “like Dorian Gray” is one of my recent favorite Faust tie-ins but that’s really more of a tip-of-the-iceberg thing.
I am so beyond thrilled that the YA culture has adopted the dusty old points that Orwell made so long ago and fashioned them into trendy sharp spears to stick to the new man. It’s been incredible to watch a genre that I have always loved (being dystopian) blossom into a seriously large movement in literature.

The love story is a classic niche that can also parade as many other stories. Of course, love is most fabulous when there’s actually some drama or action to write about so I think that’s why we end up dividing between forbidden love (a la Romeo and Juliet) and that love that you really, yeah, just shouldn’t. (Heathcliff, anyone?)

The fantasy genre has never been my favorite, though I have loved pieces within it. I loved Peter Pan, Chronicles of Narnia and the like. I’ve managed to enjoy a few werewolf tales in the recent telling, though I can’t say that they compare to my favorite fantasies in The Lord of the Rings and other such things.

Some of these stories don’t always translate but their strands keep the old stories alive in action even if it is through a different medium altogether. I haven’t ever really found a true modern version of a Shakespeare production in literary form that I have clung to, though, I’ve found many on the stage. Likewise, my attempts to find Odysseus in the here and now have bombed outside of the silver screen.

Of course, on the screen, they simply rock…

So, I guess this is a typical Pam ramble in that, outside of my head, it probably isn’t all that cohesive. Still, it makes me wonder why certain themes and literary directions have maintained speed and strength over time. I also wonder why some stories, like dystopian and romance are so well adjusted to adjusting to literature while the stories I often associate with performance, such as a fireside rendition of The Odyssey and William Shakespeare plays have done well on the movie reel but not as well in prose.

whatever the modern form may be, it is clear that there is some connection to the way our stories maintain us and how we maintain our stories by whatever form. I’ll probably be thinking about this more, down the line, but I did want to get my first thoughts out there as I’m mulling them over.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 25, 2011 9:56 am

    This is interesting to ponder, and you make some good points. I tend not to think of the stories I read in relation to the archetype that they fall into, but I think that’s because I want to continually be surprised and not to feel like I am treading the same ground over and over again. I do admit to wondering why it seems like I can always figure out the twist or the subtle shifts of directions that stories are going to take, but I try not to examine that too much. It might end up disappointing me to know that the pool where stories actually come from is very small!

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