Something Old, Something New

Hey, friends, it’s Thursday again. Suze here.  They say everything old becomes new again. I think they, whoever they are, might just be right.

Have you heard about the new Disney movie, John Carter? Let me tell you a little secret. It’s based on a hundred-year-old story by none other than Edgar Rice Burroughs of Tarzan fame.  The original story is called A Princess of Mars, and is the first of a series. When I heard about this, I just had to check it out on Project Gutenberg. (Click here if you want to read it).

Those of you who’ve been following the Scribes for a while may have heard me mention Project Gutenberg. (Click here to check it out) Thousands of books that are now in the public domain (copyrights expired) are available, free of charge, on the Gutenberg web site. There are books everyone knows, and there are some wonderfully obscure titles. How’s this for a great title? The Extraordinary Adventures of Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Burglar. Most books are in several formats so you can read them on your computer, or load them onto your Nook, Kindle, iPad, or other device.

But let’s face it. The classics can be a little, um dry sometimes. OK, maybe most of the time. But there’s a wonderful solution. Many, many books on Gutenberg are also available as audiobooks, also in various formats. A project called LibriVox has brought together some extremely talented amateurs who will read these classic books to you. (LibriVox has its own site as well. Click here) I just finished listening to a book I studied in college, a Victorian thriller called Lady Audley’s Secret, and let me tell I was astounded by just how good the reading was.

The story was far more vibrant and engaging when read aloud.  Not only that, but as I paid attention to the structure of the story, I realized that my creative mind was working overtime imagining new “what ifs.” What if this story were set in the present? How would I change the ending? What if I made one of the minor characters the heroine? Just from this one not-well-known novel I had a couple dozen ideas that I might be able to use in my current WIP, or in future works.

So today’s Secret Unlocked? If you’re feeling short on inspiration and even shorter on plot and character ideas, why not take a cue from the classics? It’s legal, it’s not as intimidating as you might think, and you just might be surprised at what you come up with.

What was the last classic novel you read? Did you love it or hate it?

12 thoughts on “Something Old, Something New”

  1. Believe it or not, I just read Pride and Prejudice for the first time last year. It was a bit slow going, took me over a week to read which is long for me, but overall I liked it! Now, I’ve got Wuthering Heights on my Kindle for a spare moment.

  2. I actually did know that about John Carter. Hollywood loves to make movies based on old Sci-Fi stories (The Adjustment Bureau, I, Robot, Minority Report, etc.). I occasionally go back and read a classic. The last one I re-read was The Age of Innocence. I also love to read A High Wind in Jamaica. Several years ago, when the library was doing town wide reading, I read Treasure Island for the first time. Much to my surprise I liked it!

    1. Ooh, A High Wind in Jamaica? I’ve never heard of that but I likes the sounds of it, matey! I shall look for it ASAP.

  3. Thanks for all the cool ideas, Suze. I’m definitely going to check them out. I love audio books since I have such a long commute, but I hate spending a lot of money on something I’ll probably only listen to once. Our Public Library has kind of a limited selection of good audio books and i’d love to go back and hear some of the classics instead of trying to plow through reading them when there are so many new titles i want to read. Great solution!

    1. I haven’t tried loading any of the LibriVox recordings on my phone or iPod, but they are available in several formats so you should have no problem. It might be easier to burn them to a disc, then play them in your car that way. There are a lot of small files that look as though they might be easy to mix up, which could get very frustrating, very fast. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the quality of the recordings. The one I just listened to (Lady Audley’s Secret) was as good as anything I’ve ever paid for or gotten at the library. Let me know if you try it and we’ll compare notes!

  4. I was just naming a few and went to look up the one by Dostoyevsky and my comment box disappeared. They are all free, so I indulged in several trying to learn how to write. I figured they must be written well to have become classics. T”o Kill a Mockingbird” was dull to me, I could not get on with the reading. But loved the movie with Gregory Peck. Of course I read and continue to pour over “The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton. Historically, it took place same as the era of my writing. Plus dear old Edith was recognized as a decorator and was friends with them all. An elite group, they were. I am into history, so those books are a passion. Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Kafka’s “The Apple Orchard.” Some of them are 17th, 18th and 19th century, and some are early 20th century.

    1. I love Edith Wharton too. Have you read Ethan Frome? So wonderfully depressing! Wait till next year, though, because that is a book that should only be read in the dead of winter for maximum impact.

  5. I love the idea of taking an old idea and making it new. (Sigh) So many books to read…so many books to write…

    And now, I am just going to go back to my edits.

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