Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Reimagining a Classic

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Lily James has it pretty good, even aside from having both of Harry Potter’s parents’ names.  She seems to have a knack for getting cast in the lead for movies that reimagine classics.  First she had Cinderella earlier this year.  Now we’ve seen the trailer for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  And, while we’re not horror genre fans here at TSRP, we might be tempted to see it, as it looks like an intriguing parody of the original Pride and Prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The “What If?”

New takes on classics stem from the “what if?” question.  The author of the book that the movie is based on seems to have asked, “What if there was action in Pride and Prejudice?  And what if the Black Plague turned everyone to zombies?”  This is where a reimagined story begins.

If you’ve ever read a story and thought, “But what if?” then you may have the base for a new take on it.  Whether it turns into Cinderella in space* or zombies in Regency era England*, or something less drastic, like Ella Enchanted*, you need that little thing that sprouts into a full twist.

Expand the Twist

Once you have your basic “What if?” scenario, you have to make sure there’s enough there to create a full story.  It could be a short story, like some of Gail Carson Levine’s books before Ella Enchanted.  It could be a full series, like the Lunar Chronicles*.  Whatever it is, it has to be enough to make it worth a read.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies pretty much just adds zombies to the original plot.  The characters still have to contend with ladylike versus unladylike behaviors.  They still have fights, though now they’re more exciting, because weapons are the norm.  This one element changed the rest of the book.

To Stay True, or Not to Stay True?

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is estimated to be 85% Jane Austen’s original writing and 15% Seth Grahame-Smith’s writing.  That’s not true of a lot of reminagined stories.  What about something like Lord of the Rings in space?  Mount Doom becomes a volcanic planet.  The wizards have more advanced tech than magical abilities.  It becomes a journey from planet to planet, rather than across one land.  This is the sort of story that would loosely borrow a beloved plot, but stay true to the spirit of the original.

While this will most likely never happen, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t make a good story.  If you want to get published, your best options are most likely public domain stories.  If you just want to experiment and test your writing skills, though?  Go for it!  There’s definitely a fan base for parodies and tweaked rewrites out there.  Not to mention minor character or villain backstories.  Just look at Wicked!

Plotting and Scheming

Once you’ve decided how close you’re sticking to the original plot, you can start working on your plot.  Find the scenes that you want to keep and write them on a scene card.  These scenes may or may not stay in the same order as in the original, but it gives you a starting point.

With your original scenes in hand, you can start to fill in the blanks.  You might have to develop original characters to fill holes, and you’ll almost definitely need to create new scenes.  Play around with your original and new scene cards; delete or add things as necessary.  This is usually the stage where you’ll stumble across the things that twist the story even more, too.

If you hate planning things out beforehand. . . just go for it.  Keep in mind that it’s still a good idea to do a little bit of work beforehand.  You should still at least pick out the original scenes you want to keep and adapt.  You’ll also be well served by doing some character work beforehand as well.  Knowing your characters, both original or adapted and new, will help your story flow.

What Now?

If you don’t think your story is publishable, whether because of copyright or another reason, you can usually still publish it online as fan fiction.  There is, of course, FanFiction.net, or you could publish it in segments on your own blog.  Or, if your source material is in the public domain, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, you could always pursue traditional or eBook publishing!  Whatever avenue you decide to go down, don’t forget to enjoy the journey.  Good luck!

Have you ever considered reimagining a classic?  What story would be your first pick?