Today’s writing prompt is a two-part lesson. In one aspect it is great practice in rewriting and “copying” from the masters. The second part is a lesson in creativity that we can all relearn from time to time.
So how do we have a single writing prompt and two lessons contained within? Easy.
There are two words you need and only two words: Public. Domain.
I won’t bore you here with all the details. But in short, the public domain is where all copyright materials, such as books, go when the copyright term is expired and can no longer be held by a single person or entity.
Books have a copyright of up to 95 years. There was a change in the term length that resulted in books not being added to the public domain for over 20 years. In 2019, that 2-decade span ended. Now, on January 1st each year, thousands of books enter the public domain.
What does this mean for you? It means you, as a member of the public, can now take the likes of The Great Gatsby, add a few dragons and write your own story. If you want to write a new case for Sherlock Holmes? You can now, without worry of legal action.
With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at the prompt.
Pick a story from the public domain, rewrite any scene you like, adding or removing details, characters or settings to make it your own.
Rewriting a classic is always great practice for aspiring authors. Copying and rewriting master works is a technique used for years by those wanting to get better. Writing, copywriting, and other forms of art all use this (or similar techniques) to improve their skills and hone the craft.
So the big challenge, then, becomes finding a book on the public domain. This is actually easier than it sounds. Books in the public domain are free to read and free to use. There are dozens of sites devoted to listing and even hosting the tomes on their servers.
Project Gutenberg is one of the oldest and largest. If you like the novels there but wish for a more “pretty” appearance, you can try Standard Ebooks. Finally, you can also look up many books, albums, movies and much more through the Internet Archive.
For this prompt (and building your eBook library) any of these resources will work. Find the novel or story you prefer, and then add in your “dragons” or zombies and make the story new, in your own way.