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Thread: Question about incorporating Old Literature into a new novel

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    Senior Member Brian Scott Allen's Avatar
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    Question about incorporating Old Literature into a new novel

    First off my apologies for not getting on and posting in a while I have been a busy man with work and school. Secondly as the title of the thread states I have a question about incorporating old literature into a new fantasy novel. More specifically I have a world of spirits. The world is inhabited by the dearly departed and the demons. I was thinking about not only making a simple illusion to Dante's Inferno but having the last act of my book be a mirror of Dante's descent into Hell. Now when I say mirrior I mean a direct descent right up until he makes it to Cocytus at the frozen bottom.

    I personally have the structure in place in my head but the question is what do you think and more importantly what would the market think.

    Anyways I would love to hear your responses.
    "Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead," said Scrooge. "But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change." A Christmas Carol By Charles Dickens

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    Leadership Ravana's Avatar
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    I think if you recreated the journey, step by step, you'd probably end up being heavily criticized for being unoriginal. Unjustly so, perhaps, but I'm pretty sure that's what "the market" would think. If, on the other hand, you used the same setting, but had it involve different routes (Hell, one would imagine, would have to be a pretty big place, after all), different sorts of encounters (I'm guessing your main intention isn't to use it to pillory your political enemies?), and so on, you might be able to make it work. Certainly, the material has gotten recycled from time to time; as long as it wasn't too exact a copy—and as long as you weren't trying to pretend you weren't drawing on Dante at all when you obviously were—there's no reason why you couldn't make extended allusion to it.
    I have taken all knowledge to be my province. Tariff rates and immigration policies forthcoming.

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    Senior Member Leuco's Avatar
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    I heard somewhere that the original screenplay for the original Conan the Barbarian movie was done by Oliver Stone and was supposed to be a lot like Dante's Inferno too. But then they made changes, which obviously turned out pretty well.

    I'm rather intrigued as to what your story will look like. So much, in fact, I've got some questions.

    Would your story it be a real descent into hell, or just a really, dark and filthy fantasy world to reflect hell? Would it be your own vision of what you think hell might look like, or is a world infested with demons from hell? Are you going to have a Satan character? What's he/she/it going to be like? I know in Dante's Inferno, there were references to contemporary/classical characters and themes. I rather like the idea of incorporating some contemporary sinners like reckless bankers or megalomaniac media moguls. Also, if the characters are going to travel through hell, what is their goal? Why are they going through hell?

    Anyway, it sounds cool to me, and I usually like the lighter stuff! If it's too dark and violent (torture scenes and gore) I might get turned off, but I am by no means a majority market. So don't worry about me-- or any market stuff for that matter. You should write the story you want to write. I do look forward to hopefully reading some of it in the showcase, though. It sounds interesting. Good luck!

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    Senior Member Brian Scott Allen's Avatar
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    Those are all very good questions Leuco. I believe that my character will descend into Hell and will go down the nine circles. I will only touch on most of them. Also I will have his main love interest be a girl named Beatrice and Virgil. She has descended into this world many times before. The big difference is what will affect my MC. Somethings he will only touch on, thieves, the wind swept lovers. Where other things he will focus on the runners after the banner, those in the river of boiling blood, the sowers of discord etc. As far as the gore I am not certain as to what I would do. There is going to need to be some but not so much that it will get into rated R territory. As far as the Satan character goes the King of Hell himself will be mentioned by his second in command. Who is manipulating a bad bad man to release him. I am debating on whether I should name him Chernabog or take a message from Paradise lost and call him Beelzebub. I'm fifty fifty at this point. The reason why they are going to Hell is to kill Chernabog or Beelzebub before he is released. He will be Virgil suggests a little nuclear intervention to blow him straight to...I was going to say Hell but that would just be wrong so I will now say oblivion. The Demon does get sploded by said device but his power contains the nuke to just explode him. The non-demon bad guy gets away.

    The last part will explain what the actions of Adam and Beatrice did for the general populace, started a massive war between the magical and the non-magical people.
    "Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead," said Scrooge. "But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change." A Christmas Carol By Charles Dickens

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    Senior Member Leuco's Avatar
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    You had me at "nuclear intervention."

    Sounds kind of like Doom if it was written by Dan Brown or Tom Clancy. Both bestsellers by the way. Maybe you're on to something.

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    Junior Member Eandorn's Avatar
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    Well I think it was the famous literary critic Harold Bloom who ones wrote that any literature striving to be great, would have to write itself "up against" the great literature of old. What he meant, I think, was that literature has to be aware of the great lines of literary history and development and incorporate it in itself. What he did not mean is, that a book should copy some great work of the past, but rather should it incorporate some of the features in a new an original way.
    As an example he points to the subject of Shakespearean psychology (an increased awareness in the character of the self as seen from the outside) as a development of the character that is an improvement, both of Shakespeare's early characters as well as his (pretty much contemporary) predecessor, Christopher Marlowe's characters.

    Now I don't know if you "strive to create great literature", but I do think that if you develop you're idea into something that not only reflects Dante's work, but also utilizes it in some new and original way, perhaps something that is relevant to modern day readers, you should not have a problem, as your work would develop it's own originality.

    I have no idea, however, how to do that

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