Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Writer Will Take Your Questions Now (#148) -- Re-Imagining Old Characters

When re-imagining an existing character, what role does the writer 
have in trying to find balance for both new and old audiences?

The role of the writer, whether creating new characters or writing those who already exist, doesn't change. His or her job is to make a reader care enough about the characters to keep reading until the end, and in the case of series books, be so enthralled the he or she will want to pick up the next volume. That's the contract with the reader. Period. Fail at this and it doesn't matter how much the character is like he or she used to be.

Now, that said, when dealing with the task of re-imagining a character, my belief is this: You have a responsibility not to tarnish the legacy of the original while taking it to new readers in a way that rings true to the basic, core understanding of that character.

What does that mean?

To me, that means that if your hero is a genuinely heroic character and your re-imagining is a darker character struggling with being heroic but wanting to ultimately, you're treating the property with respect. If, however, you write the character as a phony who only pretends to be heroic for some ulterior nasty reason, then you're altering the core and only keeping the name of the character.