NaNoWriMo: Inspiration Before Perspiration Part 4

So, maybe you’re thinking “I’d really like to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, but I don’t have a clue what to write.”

The solution is surprisingly simple. You don’t have to pull a story out of thin air. Consider these sources of endless inspiration: fairy tales, Shakespeare, pastiche and fan fiction.

Putting a modern twist on a classic fairy tale is a great way to use an existing plot and characters to tell a fresh story. The popularity of television’s “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm” attests to a wide audience eager for these stories.

The same is true for Shakespeare’s plays. For example, the movie, “10 Things I Hate About You” is a retelling of “The Taming of the Shrew.” The musical “West Side Story” replaces Verona with New York City and places Romeo and Juliet in rival gangs.

If fairy tales and the Bard don’t appeal to you, consider writing pastiche from public domain works. “Pride and Prejudice,” “Dracula” and Sherlock Holmes have been adapted countless times in a wide variety of genres and media. For that reason, you might want to find a less familiar, but equally powerful story to adapt. For example, the TV series “Revenge” is based on “The Count of Monte Cristo.”

Still not inspired? You may want to try your hand at fan fiction. This can be especially helpful for new writers. Working with familiar characters can help spread your wings and inspire you to create your own characters and situations. While you can’t legally publish this work or be paid for it, you can post it to fan fiction websites, where readers are eager for novel length works.

You can rewrite stories to fit almost any genre. “Something Rotten” by Alan M. Gratz turns “Hamlet” into a modern murder mystery set in the town of Denmark, Tennessee. “Cinder” by Marissa Meyer is a science fiction retelling of “Cinderella.”

Find a story or play that strongly appeals to you. This is key. You won’t sustain enough creative energy to write a novel if the original story doesn’t excite and engage you.

Check out these links for free resources on Shakespeare, fairy tales, public domain works and fan fiction.

Mythic Fiction

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Moving on to one of my favorite subgenres, mythic fiction. This type of fiction retells or uses elements from fairy tales, folklore and mythology. Since all the cultures of the world have their own unique folklore, there is plenty of material to draw from.

Mythic fiction crosses over with many other genres, including fantasy, horror, science fiction, romance, literary fiction, mystery, the list goes on. One of my favorite examples is the “Snow Queen” by Joan Vinge. This science fiction novel, set in a distant galaxy in the far future, borrows liberally from the fairy tale of the same name.

So, what is the appeal? Familiarity could be one aspect. A fairy tale such as Beauty and the Beast can be retold faithfully with a few twists, like Robin McKinley’s novel “Beauty,” recreated as a romance novel, such as Christine Feehan’s “Lair of the Lion,” or placed in a contemporary setting and told from the point of view of the Beast, like the YA novel, “Beastly” by Alex Flinn. In all these novels, we recognize the story while enjoying the variations.

Mythology is also a popular resource to borrow from. Myths of divine beings interacting with humans are among the oldest stories known. C.S. Lewis put a fresh take on the tale of Cupid and Psyche in “Till We Have Faces” by telling the story from the older sister’s point of view. Placing the Greek pantheon in modern times is a popular concept used by a number of authors, including Rick Riordan and Sherrilyn Kenyon. Kylie Chan does the same with Chinese gods in her “White Tiger” novels.

Some mythic fiction simply has the feel of a fairy tale rather than actually being derived from one. “Silver Metal Lover” by Tanith Lee tells the tale of a young woman who falls in love with an android.  The torment of loving a beautiful object incapable of affection is evocative of Pygmalion, but doesn’t retell the myth.

The undeniable appeal of mythic fiction can be seen in the popularity of recent television shows “Grimm“, “Beauty and the Beast” and “Once Upon a Time.”

Interested in knowing more? Why not go to the source? Many collections of fairy tales and myths are in the public domain and available for free. I’ve listed a few below.

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.

A Grimm Monday

Freebies and More

I must be in a grim mood today, to judge by my Kindle choices. This may be because I saw a commercial for one of my favorite TV shows, Grimm. It returns on August 13. Can’t wait! So much love for Monroe. In honor of that, I picked up a free copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. It’s been awhile since I wandered that scary, fairy tale world.

In keeping with the grim nature of things, I also picked up a true crime book about Britain’s underworld youth gangs. It’s more of a reference and possible story inspiration book for me.

Not for free, but certainly quite grim, are the Hangman’s Daughter novels by Oliver Pötzsch, a German author whose books are being translated into English. The first two books are being offered at a substantial discount and you can pre-order the third book at a bargain price as well. I picked up the first two books.

To lighten things up, I’ve also include a free guide for plotting your novel. Looks like it has lots of great information for transitioning an idea into an actual story.

And speaking of stories, I did enter my short story, “Many Mansions” in the Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Competition. The deadline is tomorrow, July 31, and they do accept online entries, so check it out!

  Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm
The Brothers Grimm, Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786–1859), were German academics best known for publishing collections of folk tales and fairy tales, which became popular. They are among the best-known story tellers of folk tales from Europe, and their work popularized such tales as “Rumpelstiltskin”(German: Rumpelstilzchen), “Snow White”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Rapunzel”, “Cinderella”(German: Aschenputtel), “Hansel and Gretel(German: Hänsel und Gretel)”, and “The Frog Prince”(German: Der Froschkonig).

  Young Guns by Steve Hackman
When student Steve Hackman was imprisoned for drug-dealing, he found himself surrounded be this new breed of gangbanger. He seized the opportunity to delve into their dangerous world and find out the truth about their lives. With first-hand research and interviews, he chronicles the current generation of violent crews, from major conurbations such as London, Manchester and Glasgow, to smaller towns and cities such as Halifax, Lancaster and Preston. With accounts of the lawless exploits of mobs such as the Fire Town Crew, the Fallowfield Man Dem, the Demolition Crew, the Burger Bar Boys and the terrifying Shielders, YOUNG GUNS is a shocking journey into the stark reality of gang life today.

  Successful Novel Plotting by Jean Saunders
This authoritative guide will help steer new writers through the minefield of the writing process. Using examples from her own work, and that of other top authors, Jean explains how to create memorable characters, generate cliffhangers and keep up a pace that will hook readers. And when you’ve done that, she even gives advice on how to work with publishers and editors to make your novel a best seller.

The following books are NOT FREE but offered at a discount.

  The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch
Cost: $3.99
Germany, 1660: When a dying boy is pulled from the river with a mark crudely tattooed on his shoulder, hangman Jakob Kuisl is called upon to investigate whether witchcraft is at play. So begins The Hangman’s Daughter–the chillingly detailed, fast-paced historical thriller from German television screenwriter, Oliver Pötzsch–a descendent of the Kuisls, a famous Bavarian executioner clan.

  The Dark Monk: A Hangman’s Daughter Tale by Oliver Pötzsch
Cost: $4.99
1660: Winter has settled thick over a sleepy village in the Bavarian Alps, ensuring every farmer and servant is indoors on the night a parish priest discovers he’s been poisoned. As numbness creeps up his body, he summons the last of his strength to scratch a cryptic sign in the frost. Following a trail of riddles, hangman Jakob Kuisl; his headstrong daughter, Magdalena; and the town physician’s son team up with the priest’s aristocratic sister to investigate. What they uncover will lead them back to the Crusades, unlocking a troubled history of internal church politics and sending them on a chase for a treasure of the Knights Templar.

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These books are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free or discounted when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.

Books that I have previously listed will occasionally come up free again. I add those to my current posts for people who didn’t see them the first time.

Free Fairy Tales for a Monday Morning

Free Today on Amazon.com

I love fairy tales, fractured or otherwise. A good retelling rocks my world and I’m a big fan of the TV series, “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm.” So, I was delighted this morning to find a retelling of Snow White that looks entirely different than either of the movies that came out this year. I also found a literary novel set in China that has a fairy tale quality to it.

  Snow White and Rose Red: The Curse of the Huntsman by Lilly Fang
Welcome to the Festival of Roses, a world full of magic and romance. Every year during the festival each boy leaves a flower at the door of the girl he believes is the “fairest of them all.” Naturally, Snow White gets dozens of flowers, while her younger sister Rose Red is ignored. This year, though, things are different. For the first time, Rose Red has a mysterious admirer, and this year she isn’t the only one jealous of her sister’s beauty. But even though it’s a time of celebration, when girls begin disappearing, the festival turns deadly. With mysterious strangers arriving every day, an ominous marriage proposal, and magic and danger everywhere, Snow White and Rose Red will need to work together to survive the festival and solve the mystery.

  Daughter of the Bamboo Forest by Sheng-Shih Lin
Alone in the bamboo forest, seven-year-old Little Jade, still dressed in red silk after her father’s recent wedding, wonders whether she will ever meet her real mother. DAUGHTER OF THE BAMBOO FOREST is a story set in war-torn, post-revolutionary China during the 1940s. From age seven to twelve, Little Jade longs for the attention of an opium-addicted father and clashes with a desperate, resentful stepmother. The young girl is inadvertently swept by the tides of history, encountering a plague that decimated a village, Catholic nuns in a convent school, and the fabled dragon king along the way.

Descriptions provided by Amazon

Disclaimers and Disclosures

I found these books via Amazon’s Kindle eBooks store. Resources for free Kindle and other format eBooks are listed in my sidebar.

These freebies are limited time offers, so there is no guarantee any of these books will still be free when you click on the links. Grab them sooner rather than later.