20 facets of transformative writing 

Transformative writing is different to other forms of writing. Coined by my lecturer Chris Thurgar-Dawson, transformative writing is unique. Creative writing is purely original, biographical novels are the fictionalised events of a real person, and fan fiction is a spin-off of different fiction. Whereas transformative writing is the power of retelling a story. Some may think of it as being re-creative writing, different aspects can be reinterpreted – characters, point of view, plot, language or even settings. Some works of fiction are already transformative writing. But there’s a few guidelines to follow. I’m going to share these guidelines I learned:

1. The story is closely based on a source text

2. Around 50% of the of the original story and 50% new elements are used. So there is room for some creative license, even though the text is adapted from its original. There’s a direct source text, rather than just an author with similar ideas  to you. This is probabily to ensure you aren’t just ripping off another writer’s work, but it can also make for interesting conversation.

3. The source text can be any media

Painting, poetry, photo, sculpture, life story…. The list is endless. Despite creative be work being original, every writer has their inspiration. Also, there is no limit to the number of source texts you can use, but any more than three might be hard to balance, as a rule of thumb.

4. No story is 100% original

There’s a theory stating that there are seven types of story. Postmodern writers believe that stories are collages of other stories. This is important for transformative writing, as transformative writing is a special kind of writing. To make a tale one’s own is a very special talent indeed.

5. Creative journals are important

Creative journals document any feedback, drafts, photos or personal thoughts whilst writing. Keeping drafts, illustrations, annotations, feedback and photos can all be useful for documenting progress. Mood boards, traditional notebooks, OneNote and even memos on the phone are all useful features.

6. Critical analysis is important

To criticise your own work is particularly difficult. Nobody likes pointing out or admitting the flaws they have.  Honesty is the best policy when writing  an essay on  your own work. Plus, does everyone know their own style? What you pick up on will be very different to what other will pick up on, and very few people can be honest and diplomatic at the same time.

7. Creative reflection

The reflection indicates the transformation through the drafts and decisions made when writing. Any influences or inspiration would occur here, along with various topics such as language.

8. Transformative writing is re-creative writing

Creative writing is pure imagination involved in fiction. Transformative writing is rewriting another piece in your own style. Think of it as a reboot of another piece of fiction. It can be hard to develop your own twist on the story.

9. It’s not something you learn outside the classroom

Meaning, you’ve probably  never thought about adaptations as transformative writing. Just recently, Russell T. Davies adapted A Midsummer Night’s Dream for TV, and changed the setting to what the Telegraphed termed as having a “megalomaniac dictator Theseus”, and the nymphs appearing more like alien life forms from outer space.

10. You as a writer also transform with your story

11. Drafting is important, since many key changes to the characters and story is seeing progressing in drafts. As you continue to write the chapters in the book, your ideas will probably change over time with feedback.

12. Plagiarism is a difficult issue

This is probably one of the most difficult issues to talk about when discussing transformative writing. If you’re writing for an academic assignment, use a bibliography and remember to cite your influences in your critical reflection. Use critical footnotes if there’s a direct quote or reference in your story.

13. And so is maintaining originality

Okay, so it’s probably a fair comment to say that nothing is 100% original. As I said earlier, nobody likes a copycat. So, staying fresh can be tricky whilst balancing being trendy. However, here are few helpful tips:


-point of view


-narrative voice

-Language e.g. txt T@lk, Middle English, a foreign language

-Character gender and/or race

Ideally, there should be a mix of these things to make your story different. But, if you ant to stay faithful to the story, this is also fine – just shake up the plot a bit.

14. There are some features which are not suitable for adaptation

It’s very difficult to adapt poetry into visual formats, and there are a few lines to be drawn when attempting to convert a story into a new medium. I wouldn’t recommend trying to write in a different style if the source text is from social media, because the only medium that could effectively convey the message would be photography.

15. Transformative writing is suitable for any genre

Having said this, history and fantasy genres do work especially well. this is because nobody really knows what actually happened, so creativity is much easier. Don’t be limited by writing style or medium, just go with what feels natural 🙂

16. Nearly every story is transformative writing

17. Keeping up with trends is key

Social media can be a great source of inspiration – from Facebook reactions, #CreativeWriting on Twitter and popular comments in news articles, there are hundreds of ways to be inspired. Metafictional webcomic artist Dorris McComics recently posted a comic about how people “react” to their content round them, from the character’s perspective.

18. A few recommended authors

Angela Carter

Salman Rushdie

Italo Calvino

These guys will put you in good stead, but there’s probably more notable writers. If you can think of any, just drop them in the comments section.

19. Autobiographical writing

I suppose you could interpret this as a form of transformative writing because nobody’s life is quite like it is in memoirs. Plus, some writers prefer to fictionalise life writing so they remain somewhat anonymous.

20. Authorship

There’s a quote which goes: “it’s not who did it first but who did it best”. This is normally applied to songs, but the same does apply to writing. Technically, you wrote your version of the story. but if it’s a translation or modern adaptation, there’s still some credit to the author.

I really hope you enjoyed this post.





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