Bestselling author Lev Grossman joins us for this week’s quaranTEEN voices! Lev is the author of a number of novels, including The Magicians Trilogy, a contemporary fantasy series about a young man obsessed with the magical land of his favorite childhood books. Lev is also a journalist, technology writer, and book critic. He lives in Brooklyn.
From Lev Grossman:
Originality is overrated!
No seriously, it is. Some of the greatest works of literature in history weren’t written from scratch; instead the author took an existing story, rewrote it, reimagined it, turned it on its head and made it mean something new. Think Shakespeare invented Hamlet? Think again! He got that story second-hand. Then he rewrote it and made it his own.
It happens all the time. Shakespeare, Milton, Homer—those writers were all playing with stories and characters they inherited from somewhere else. Is it great literature, or is it fan fiction? It’s a blurry line. So let’s blur it some more!
Pick a story. It can be anything—a novel, a movie, a TV show, a video game, even a historical event. It can be something you love or something you hate. Now pick a major element of that story and change it. Change the hero’s gender, or their race, or their sexual preference. Or you could change the point of view: make the hero the villain and vice versa, or take a minor character and make them the hero. Lean into the change. Let it ripple through the plot till the whole story feels different, and goes somewhere different, and means something different.
Think of a famous story and how it begins. Luke Skywalker finds a lightsaber. Harry Potter discovers he’s a wizard. Elizabeth Bennet meets Mr. Darcy. Alice falls down the rabbit hole. Now change it! Luke stays on the moisture farm! Dudley goes to Hogwarts instead of Harry! Mr. Darcy falls for Mr. Bingley! Alice catches the rabbit and makes rabbit stew! And so on. Take the great kickoff event of a great story and make it go horribly, wonderfully different. What happens next?
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