Posted by: nancycurteman | April 4, 2016

How to Use the Classics to Inspire Your Writing

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The classics have long provided inspiration for authors. In fact, almost all story plots have been done before. If you think about it, there are only so many basic story themes. Universal human themes like love, tragedy, hope, joy, betrayal, and good overcoming evil are always relevant. These universal themes are basic to the classics. Look for them in the Bible, ancient myths (Greek, Roman), Shakespeare and even fairy tales. The classics can provide a foundation for modern authors. Their themes and plots can be moved across time and place. What makes a novel unique is not the story but how it is told. Modern authors can make a variation on a classic plot unique by introducing a fresh perspective. Here’s how:

  • Change the point of view. The story of Cyrano de Bergerac would be quite a different piece if it was told from the point of view of Roxane instead of Cyrano.
  • Change the setting. Think how different the plot of Romeo and Juliet would be if the story was set in San Francisco in the sixties. Would Juliet be a hippie?
  • Change the genre. Would Aristophane’s Lysistrada work as a mystery or science fiction piece.
  • Change race or nationality. How would the plot work if Romeo was African-American and Juliet was Caucasian?
  • Give the main character a handicap or mental issue. Suppose Achilles came home from the Trojan War with PTSD.
  • Change the sex or age of a character. How would the story change if Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple was a college student or her Hercule Poirot was a woman?

Ask yourself how your idea differentiates itself from a classic story, and then go for it.

More Tips:

Write Excellent Mystery Novels by Reading Excellent Mystery Novels
Great Settings Make Great Mysteries

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