Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#131) -- Tinkering with Old Characters

When is tinkering with a character for the benefit of reaching a new audience a good thing?

Okay. Several of you have asked me to start answering my own questions that I pose for the weekly roundtable interview articles, so I'll be doing just that for the foreseeable future in my questions of the day.

 The simplest answer is this: when it works.

The trouble is there's no magic formula to make it work. I guess my own guideline is this. The secondary elements can change as needed as long as the core of the character remains the same. 


  1. I have written about this before. I really liked the John Carter movie. However that John Carter and Dejah Thoris never came out of ERB's pen.
    John Carter was an ageless soldier of fortune who loved to fight. He smiled while fighting.
    In the movie he is a war weary widower (?) who does not want to fight.Polar opposites!
    Dejah Thoris is a beautiful princess who agrees of her own will to marry Sab Than in order to end the war. She is also a skilled diplomat who came within one sentence of convincing the Tharks to a peace treaty with Helium.
    In the movie she is a warrior/ scientist who is ordered by her father to marry.
    What's up with that?
    If you must tinker, come up with a new character.

  2. Can you give an example of a modern writer tinkering with an established character that turned out for the better?

  3. The movie version of the Watchman springs to mind for me. The ending was far superior than Moore's giant octopus from space and played better with the Cold War feeling of the original.

    The portrayal of Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, for another.

    It just hasn't happened much with the pulp characters, sadly.

  4. I liked David Lynch's Dune (1984?) He gave the Fremen a superior weapon which helped them tip the scales in battle. Much better than just being good knife fighters in the book.
    Pulp and comic book characters have suffered mightily under the tweaks of modern writers. I can't read Marvel or DC anymore.

  5. Agreed on Dune. I don't mind all the changes to characters in comics because they're always changing, it seems. I just think of it as the Doctor getting a new actor, every time they get a new writer. *grins*