How to Properly Retell a Classic Story

1) Make a hated character likable

Simplest way to make a hate character likable is either to give him a sad back story and/or have him be the love interest to the main character.

We all know that when we learned Hook in Once Upon a Time was seeking revenge for the love of his life that you instantly wanted to hug him and get his revenge. Plus he happens to look good without all those curls.

The bad guy redeeming himself enough to become one of the central love interest's of the main character? Instant likability! If the protagonist that we are all rooting for likes him/her than who are we to object?

2) Have a selfish character be less unreasonable

You know you have those characters that are just unreasonably selfish. I'm talking to you Pan. So much so that when you read his book you look around and wonder "Why do people like you?"

(You do know he steals away Wendy's daughter at the end right?)

The answer? When your story gets retold the author is smart enough to make you NICER.

Even if you are still a little bit selfish, at least you have FEELINGS.

(Someone's going to miss his Wendy...)

3) Keep the best characters the same with very minimal adjustments

Now there are some characters that are great when they are completely changed around for good.

And then sometimes it's just nice to see them act like themselves because you know they are going to stir up trouble.

4) Create a boring character into everybody's favorite character

You know when there are protagonists that feel like they are in the background of their own story? Or are blissfully unaware of how to get their lives together?

All you have to do is give them a compelling back story where they are trying to find their brothers and are dedicated so much that they lie to their family and friends. Then they go through emotional turmoil trying to look for said brothers, but the also discover some peace in the one outlet that their brothers loved.

Through all that they, you grow to care about this character that you thought was so boring. You end up actually liking them even declaring that they were your favorite character in the story because the author was able to take a maternal, used character and turn her into a maternal, dedicated, passionate, thrill seeking, adventurer who is pretty much the definition of awesome.


  1. Good tips on this! I was HOOKed at the first mentioned character. (He he he he, I'm so fucking funny! Or something.....)
    No, really, I remember when Hook first appeared in Once Upon a Time, and then when we got his background, both with the woman and his brother. I also love how that show has made Peter Pan the most evil person IN THE WORLDS.

    1. I KNOW! On both parts I was happy with how Hook and Peter Pan's character turned out. I like when characters completely turn out different than what they were in their original story. They are so much more interesting.
      I miss Peter Pan in Once Upon a Time. I wish he was still around being evil.

    2. Yeah, Peter Pan is definitely my fave villain!
      I just read the book by J.M. Barrie, and I just despised the character of Peter!

  2. Thanks for the tips. I'm torn about likeable characters right now and this helps. :-)

    Anna from Elements of Writing

    1. Oh good! Happy to help. This was basically what I saw Peter Pan retellings did right. Likable characters whether they are villains or heroes need to have a good back story that makes readers care in my opinion.

  3. These are very good tips, I agree with your first two points the most. I think it's wonderful when authors can make us like anti-heroes/heroines, Cruel Beauty did a wonderful job of it. Wonderful post :) <3 Benish| Feminist Reflections

    1. Aw yes, Cruel Beauty. I really need to get on and read that book.


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