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Countdown to Christmas, Day 8: Familiar or Original?


Day 8: December 17th
Editors are always looking for original stories. We sometimes see familiar stories written with a new spin on them that gives them ‘originality.’ For example, “The Night Before Christmas,” and “The Night Before Thanksgiving,” or “Snowmen at Night” and “Snowmen at Christmas.” How about “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” and “Leroy the Red Neck Reindeer?”

So how do you make a familiar story sound new and original? Try changing the situation, or changing the main character.

In “The Night Before Thanksgiving,” the holiday changes, giving the reader a different situation. There are similarities, but enough differences to give it a new spin. In “Snowmen at Christmas,” an ordinary night becomes something special.

Character drives the story. When you change your character, the story will change because of the way your character handles the situation, or reacts to it. When Rudolph is sick on Christmas Eve, he calls on his cousin Leroy to cover for him. Leroy shows up driving a pick-up truck and wearing a John Deere tractor hat. At the start, the other reindeer aren’t too sure about a reindeer who goes ‘two-stepping across the sky,’ and makes ‘jingle bells with a rebel yell.’ But he soon has them all ‘scootin’ a hoof on every single roof, by the light of a neon moon.’

When I talk to students about my picture book TURKEY SURPRISE, I sometimes ask them how they think the story might change if the little pilgrim brother refused to hunt for a turkey at the beginning. Or what might happen if the turkey was caught? How might he get away?

Just for fun, try re-writing a picture book with a different type of character, or by changing the situation.
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