May The 4th Be with You

By Eleanor Shelton

It was recently May 4th. Don’t mock. An argument could be made that it is a more appropriate holiday than the following day. George Lucas has said that he was inspired by of the earliest Celtic stories of Arthur and the paladins in The Mabinogion and reimagined it as a space odyssey. He emulated the story that caught his attention in childhood and paid homage while creating a different aesthetic.

He used Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with A Thousand Faces. He lifted themes from Akira Kurosawa and Star Trek. And let’s not forget J.R.R. Tolkien who took some of his story plots directly from another heroic source, Beowulf.

Star Wars (film) - Wikipedia
Star Wars offered something unique. A new generation, a new time, a new sensibility.  

Christopher Booker, at some point, announced that there were only a certain number of original storylines (seven, I think). So, what is a writer to do? Tell the same story, but in the way only you can. Recall the stories that made you dream as a child or stay awake all night in fear. Identify the pertinent elements, and then create it as if no one has read it before.

Consider a different point of view, change the time the story occurs, or flesh out a famous poem or song. Turn Alice in Wonderland into a western or Snow White and the Seven Dwarves into a horror story (already done, I think).

Look at the wave of retellings flooding the publishing industry. If it’s not Elizabeth Bennett fighting zombies, it’s a long list of “modern retellings.”

Gregory Maguire spearheaded this trend with Wicked and hasn’t stopped there. Philippa Gregory cashed in on the Tudors by drawing audiences into the larger story in The Other Boleyn Girl. Need I mention the current flood of Holmesian stories in all forms of media: Enola Holmes, The Irregulars, and even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar weighed in with Mycroft Holmes (co-written with screen writer, Anna Waterhouse).

People love the familiar. It’s comfortable yet engaging. The ending may be unavoidable, but how will the protagonist get there? It’s still a hero’s journey. The foundation of a successful story is timeless.

It may feel hopeless or frustrating, but tell your story. Tell it well. And it will resonate.

Searching for inspiration? Look no further than your favorite tale. There is no try to write – there is either do or do not.

There Are Only 7 Stories.

A Classic Formula.

Classic Retellings.

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