Thursday, February 12, 2015

Rewriting Prompt: Trying These Times

You've seen this done countless times by well-known authors. You've even seen it done and not known that you've seen it. It's been done to entire novels, but for now, maybe just focus on a scene.

Choose a scene from a novel written more than about 150 years ago. Think Dickens and earlier. Rewrite that scene in modern times and for a modern audience.

Ulterior motive

You'll end up inserting certain factual, technological changes in the scene — incorporating, for example, cell phones, cars, and child labor laws — but keep an eye on changes "for a modern audience." Look at sentence structure, sentence length, and individual word choices. What did the original author do that dates the story today? Do you find anything that seems not just outdated but wrong?

More broadly, what does all this reveal  about how literature has changed in the last two centuries? Who drives these changes — writers, readers, or something else? And how has the relationship between writer and reader changed?

Write a 20-page report on the evolution of English-language literature over the last two centuries, with Chicago-style in-text citations. Then print out three copies —one for that college English professor who told you you'd never write anything worthwhile, one for you mother, and one that goes directly into the trash.