Issues in Modernizing Classics: Should I?

Clearly the world is, for good or bad, in some type of reboot mania.  At least, Hollywood executives are.  While movie reboots seem to focus on changing the sex of characters or utilizing new technology to tell the same story, I have noticed something connected going on in fiction books.  I have ranted (typically) about this in Monday weekly reading posts, but I thought it was time to bring the issue front and center because I too am guilty (for good or bad) of modernizing my favorite novels.  At this point, I am only focused on the modernizations of Jane Austen.  For the sake of these discussions, I am going to stick with the issues around modernizing Austen.


If you look at reviews on GoodReads, readers are split in two general camps on the issue of modernizations and variations of classics.  On one hand you have those who consider themselves purists and don’t see why anyone would do this.  Some are authors who consider it from their own POV and don’t want anyone writing about their characters.  Others are fans who see this new books are less impactful than Austen’s originals.  I have seen many equated to chick lit.  On the other hand you have those who see Austen as adaptable because most of it is timeless.  For me, I find Austen’s plots to be adaptable and structured in a way that makes sense.

socially-awkward-penguin-12When I decided to re-write two Austen novels (Persuasion as well as Pride and Prejudice), I did so because I had an idea in my mind and realized it fit far better into a modernization of Austen than my trying to do it myself.  If I had done it myself I would have ended up in the same place.  I just embraced that I was writing around Austen.  As I thought through issues of the story and worked characters in my mind, I knew I was looking at them through the lens of Austen’s work.  Many of my characters fall into these themes: socially awkward penguin (Darcy), standing your ground (Elizabeth), regret (Anne Elliot), and forgiveness (Wentworth).  Even in my original work, I see these themes and character profiles come back into play.  It doesn’t help that I adore both Darcy and Wentworth and want to write them all the time.

There are other “why bother” issues.  Should an author be faithful to the original characters and story?  Does the setting matter?  Is it necessary to be as insightful as Austen or is it OK for these to be easy stories akin to chick lit?

I am going to be tackling these and other questions as both a writer and reader.  Chime in yourself!  Which side do you fall on when it comes to modernizations?  What do you like or dislike about them?

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