Discussion

Are Authors of Re-Telling Novels Cheating?


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Re-tellings have become so popular in the YA book world, and I for one love them. But with the underlying plot and characters already created by other authors of the original novel are these re-telling authors just cheating?

Re-tellings work becuase we all know and love the original stories. Seeing another author’s take on it is always interesting and some re-tellings are in my favourite books list. But I wanted to discuss whether or not this is seen as cheating?

When Fifty Shades of Grey came out there was a lot of talk on the internet of E. L James just ripped off Twilight and made it into erotica. There is no denying that the Fifty Shades series was originally Twilight fan fiction which then became its own book after names etc were changed. But if we criticise E. L James then what about other authors who have ‘ripped off’ other stories to make their own novel.

I know re-tellings aren’t based exactly on their original stories, for example the fairytale re-tellings of The Lunar Chronicles aren’t word for word exactly like the original classic stories. But you can see the influence of them within the young adult series. Does this make Marissa Meyer’s work of any lesser value than the work of an author who has not based any of their novel on previous events/works?

Also if I was to write a novel based on the idea of Alice in Wonderland, and I just used the idea of Wonderland as an influencer, should Lewis Carol then get credit or royalties?

Anybody who is brave enough and talented enough to write, finish and get a book published deserves praise in my eyes. But when it comes to re-tellings and using other author’s ideas and concepts for the basing of your book is it cheating? Or is it just inevitable that eventually we will recycle stories the same way we recycle ideas and projects?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and what is your favourite re-telling novel?

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4 thoughts on “Are Authors of Re-Telling Novels Cheating?

  1. I don’t believe that writing a re-telling should be considered as cheating. I think it is equally hard to create your own world and your own idea than to go into someone else’s world. When you write something set in someone else’s world, you have to follow their rules and it is very hard to be inventive in something you did not create. Because you don’t only have to follow the basics of the original story but you have to be incredibly imaginative to turn it into something new that afterwards you can claim as being your own.
    Nice topic of discussion by the way !

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  2. Those are some good questions. Some novels can pull it off a lot better than others. It’s funny I just finished reading Grim the collection of short stories that young adult authors retell the classic grim tales, and some where good, some weren’t. I think if you come up with the characters at least and take from the world that isn’t cheating because it’s a created world. To me it’s like using any place that is already existing.

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  3. I don’t see how it is cheating. Fairy tales, at least, are psychologically shallow for the most part (especially the Grimm versions, though Perrault and Basile aren’t much better)–the retelling takes a very basic structure and adds depths and detail and often sense where there was none before. Cheating would be plagiarism, in my opinion. As long as you are adding something, creating something, I don’t see it as that. There is nothing original under the sun.

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