Thursday, January 29, 2015

How to Adapt the Classics: 6 Tips

My kids watched The Lion King a while ago. Afterward, my seven-year-old said, “The Lion King is really Hamlet.” I don’t know how he knew that, but he was right. Who’d have thought anyone could turn Hamlet into a  Disney movie?

Many successful books, movies, and TV shows are classics reworked. Here are a few examples I’ve noticed lately:

·         The movie You’ve Got Mail is adapted from The Shop Around the Corner, a classic movie that starred Jimmy Stewart.

·         Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca is also a version of Jane Eyre.

·         The TV show Castle’s 100th episode is based on the movie Rear Window, also starring Jimmy Stewart.

Writing an adapted classic seems like a cop-out, but it’s not as easy as it looks. Since I’ve spent the last few years adapting Jane Austen’s classics into contemporary LDS fiction, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned. 

Here are six tips for adapting the classics:

1.      Keep the Emotions. The classics are still around because they touch people emotionally. We feel for Hamlet, Jane Eyre, and Elizabeth Bennett. Your goal in adapting the classic should be to create the same range of emotions with new characters and settings.

2.      Twist the Events. If you market your novel as an adaptation, as I do, you’ll need to mirror the events of the classic. However, you also have to avoid predictability. The events in your novel should seem natural to the setting you choose. When Scar kills Mufasa in The Lion King, he doesn’t pour poison in his ear as Hamlet’s uncle did; he kills him with a stampede.

3.      Remember the Movie too.  Many of the people who like retellings are more familiar with the movie versions than the book. Therefore, you must create a twist on the events in both the book and the movie versions. Also, pay attention to the way movies portray the characters.

4.      Make the Characters Real. You want the reader to be so invested in your characters that they forget they’re reading an adaptation. To do this, you must give your character an original back-story, quirks, and traits. Make sure each chapter reveals something new about your main characters’ personalities.

5.      Watch the Dialogue. A common complaint I hear about contemporary adaptations of classic novels is that the dialogue seems old-fashioned. The author has spent so much time reading the classics that antiquated dialogue seems natural to her. An easy remedy for this problem is to read your dialogue out loud, asking yourself if it seems like something you'd actually say.

6.      Pick up the Pace. Not to be rude, but classic novels tend to be . . . well, a little slow. If you want your retelling to compete in the modern world, you have to write a modern story. That means that you'll need a tighter plot that uses fewer words and has more action (even if it's only emotional action.) In other words, skip over the boring parts.

That about sums up what I've learned over the years, but I'd love to hear your suggestions. What do you look for in a retelling?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Austen Authors Grand Re-Opening

I am so excited to be a part of the new Austen Authors Blog. The Blog begins this Saturday, January 24. There's still time to enter the giveaway for Jane Austen-inspired books, DVDs, and calendars. I have always wanted to be a part of a blog like this, so I am still pinching myself.

My first blog post for will be on February 13--just in time for Valentine's Day. It's called "How to Write a Love Letter like Capt. Wentworth's". I'll guide you through the elements of a romantic love letter.

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lessons Learned as the Bishop's Wife

I shared my feelings about being a bishop's wife three years ago in this post. Since it's now been five-and-a-half years, I wanted to write a follow-up.

Last year at this time, I sat at a dinner with six other bishops and their wives. We were supposed to go around the table, explaining how much we'd progressed in our callings. I was at a low point that day and feeling very frustrated about broken-down cars, teenagers, and some other things. Basically, I felt like I was juggling a jigsaw puzzle, hoping that when the pieces landed, they'd magically form a beautiful picture. It wasn't happening. When my turn came, I admitted that I really hadn't made much progress as a bishop's wife. Among other things, I'd yelled at my kids the night before, and I think I'd said more bad words in the previous week than I had in all the other years of my life.

It's been a year since that fateful day, and I can say that I am a better person for having had the opportunity to serve. And I was a better person than I realized that day; I just didn't know it. Being the wife of a bishop has been harder and easier than I ever imagined. And, like most trying times, it has brought out the best and the worst in me.

Keeping my Spiritual Batteries Charged

During the past five years, I've often felt like I was at the end of my rope. I found that I had to seek the spirit on a daily basis. My husband's life centered around spiritual experiences. Mine didn't. I had to make time to charge my spiritual batteries. Little things like prayer and scripture study made a big difference in the strength of my faith. When I neglected the little things, my problems seemed bigger.

The Trap of Self-Pity

Some people think that everything goes perfectly for the bishop's family. That simply isn't the case. We had our ups and downs like everyone else, and I sometimes fell into the trap of self-pity. To give you an example, one night last summer, instead of going on our usual Friday-night date, we helped someone move. In the process, a table fell on my foot. The next day, I could barely walk. Why me? I thought. I skipped my date night to help someone. Shouldn't I be rewarded with blessings instead of being punished with an injury?

Like most people, I have had to learn that we aren't always blessed immediately for our actions. Sometimes the Lord lets us wait for our blessings. It's natural during trials like this to feel sorry for ourselves. I think that's okay. It helps us learn to take care of ourselves. But self-pity can go too far. You can get to the point where you stop feeling sorry for other people, or, worse, you can get to the point where it becomes a contest to show everyone else that you suffer more than they do.

The Ninety Percent

Elder Eyring once gave the advice that when you meet someone, you should assume that they are facing a serious problem and ninety percent of the time you will be correct. How true that is. When you look around your neighborhood, you may see the length of the grass in your neighbors' yards and the brand of cars in their driveways. What you won't see are the illnesses, problem relationships, and heartaches. Everyone has a few of these things hidden within their homes. Trials are a part of life. Everyone has them.

When I was younger, I sometimes thought having a trial meant I'd done something wrong. Now I know that trials aren't punishments; they are simply a part of life. Yes, they teach us, but we shouldn't feel that every time we have a trial it means that we are doing something wrong.

During the last five years, I've heard a lot of bad news. Good things happened too, but as is human nature, my mind focused more on the bad than the good. I had to make a conscious effort to be positive. One of the ways I did this was by keeping a gratitude journal. Each night, before I went to bed, I wrote down five things that I could feel grateful about. This helped me have a more cheerful and realistic outlook.

Charity is about you

During our service, I encountered a few people who treated me rudely. Once, after someone hurt my feelings, I prayed and turned to the scriptures. I opened to Ether 13:36-37, where Moroni prays that the Lamanites will become more charitable:

"I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity."

"And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful."

In other words, the Lord doesn't judge us by our popularity. He only cares about the love we have for others.

I realized that my job was to love others--whether or not they loved me back. I had to learn to focus on doing the right thing, instead of on getting the right result.

The Myth of the Perfect Time

Speaking of doing the right things, when you're a bishop's wife, there is never a perfect time for anything. Many things just don't get done, and other things get done in a haphazard fashion. There certainly weren't any Pinterest-worthy birthday parties happening at our house, and I don't think I took homemade cookies to my neighbors once during the last five years. In the end, I don't think it mattered. We did what we could, and that was enough.

The kids and I have been blessed with many opportunities to serve others.  My kids have helped countless families move, collected fast offerings for the needy, shoveled snow, cleaned the church, and visited the lonely. Our service has opened our eyes to the many ways we can serve those around us, and it has taught us that our Heavenly Father loves each individual more than most people ever realize.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Jane Austen’s No Excuses Approach to Writing

Jane Austen's desk
Jane Austen had plenty of excuses to stop writing. She lived in a time when it wasn’t completely acceptable for a woman to pen novels, let alone publish them. In fact, she kept her novels secret for years, hiding her manuscripts away whenever guests arrived. She wrote multiple volumes before any of her writing was published. When she finally did publish her work, she had to rely on her brother to negotiate with the publisher, and she published under a pen name. Her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, was published fifteen years after she started writing it.

Writing itself was difficult for Jane. By her own admission, she was a bad speller. Her desk was tiny. Just imagine what she’d say to you if you complained that your computer crashed. At least we have ballpoint pens! Even on her deathbed, with nothing more than pen, ink, and paper, Jane Austen managed to complete Persuasion and revise Northanger Abbey.

Yet there was a time when Jane didn’t write much. During the years she lived in Bath, perhaps because of poverty or discouragement, she wrote very little. Later, when she went to live with her brother, she could have told herself that she hadn’t written in years and that it would be silly to go back to it. Thankfully, she chose to write.
The desk where I do most of my wriitng.

Most novelists have many of the same excuses. Though it’s now acceptable for women to publish novels, it can be awkward to admit you're writing another novel when you haven't published your first one. We’re luckier than Jane, in that we have word processors, laptops, and other technology to help us. What we don’t have is time. It takes ingenuity and sacrifice to fit writing into a busy schedule. And, like Jane, we can easily fall victim to discouragement. The moral of Jane Austen’s story for me is this: Write anyway.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy 2015 and a Giveaway

I hope 2014 has been good to you. I feel so blessed when I consider all the good things that happened this past year. There were bad things too, that's for sure, but I'm learning to focus on the good things a little more. (I love my gratitude journal.)

It's been a fun break. My daughter is home from college, my oldest son got accepted to his college of choice, and my 14-year-old became an Eagle scout.

In the coming year, I plan to become more confident. I'm always hesitant to invite people over to my home, so it's one of my goals to have friends over more often. I also want to learn to use PowerPoint and sell some of my stuff on eBay--both are things that intimidate me.

Beyond that, I want to attend the temple more, keep track of the books I read, set up better reward systems for the kids, and help my children with all their goals. Oh, and I need to finish writing the book I'm working on.

I have plans for new blogging adventures in 2015. Last month, Sharon Lathan and Regina Jeffers asked me to participate in the new Austen Authors blog, which starts at the end of January. I've always wanted to be involved in a blog like Austen Authors, and I'm excited to start writing Austen-related posts.

Here's a giveaway from Austen Authors.

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