Ten Commandments of Revisionary Creativity

1. It is acceptable to use an old model but make it novel

Creating something new based on a past model cannot be underestimated as long as it is turned into ‘present purposes with an eye to the future’ (Pope 2011 p. 256). In other words, it is highly possible to create something novel and original by applying the contemporary socio-cultural, economic, religious, and political backgrounds to a story or characters taken from an old or even an ancient work, with a touch of future possibilities. According to Pope, such a re/production has ‘a triple-faced ‘originality’.

2. Do not be afraid to make changes within the genre and do evolutions

Thomas Roberts (cited in Allington 2011, p. 280) finds that popular novels contain replicated structures, which deviate from the formally established genres, which can be identified only by the readers, who are thoroughly familiar with the genres. He further advocates that the joy of reading genre-based works is derived when the work varies from the ‘formulae’ and brings about the ‘evolutions of formulae’.

The work can be considered evolutional only if it has been adequately powerful to influence the work that comes after it, as in the case of 28 Days Later; as the work that followed it had (Allington 2011, p.280). Nevertheless, Allington finds it highly possible to regard the past deviations as new when the reader is not aware of the work or works that first deviated from a particular formula.

3. Mash-up genres

A writer may combine two or more genres to create a new story. The story may achieve freshness either by not sticking to genre conventions of each genre or by an evolution of specific characteristics of the genre whilst showing more reliance on each genre. ‘The Naturalist’ in Arms Race by Maureen F. McHugh is a brilliant example of successful inter-marriage between two different genres (2011, pp. 1-28). In this short story, the sub-genre of zombie narrative has been masterfully blended with the sub-genre of dystopian science fiction, relying much on the former genre conventions. However, the novelty of this story has been achieved by introducing the ‘otherness’ and the possible humanity of the zombies: by lifting their statues through resonating their nature with the brutality and inhumanity of the convicts.

4. Question yourself as the reader does

Try to stay away from age-old stereotypes as much as possible, create something new, and avoid promoting discrimination. Questioning the writer as a postmodern critic or a reader similar to the reader depicted in Atwood’s ‘Once There Was’ (1993); would help you revise, reword, and reform to create something new. Thus, you will be able to cater to a positive attitudinal change, impacting the readers’ minds, and it may influence future writings.

5. Creativity is collective

As the process of borrowing continues from ancient times and will continue in the future, ‘creativity cannot be traced back to an individual person; its origins lie in a large number of people who build upon one another’s work’. According to McDermott (cited in Tanggard 2012, p. 28) the people who do outstanding contributions are regarded as ‘links in a chain’. Thus, creativity can be viewed as a collective effort.

6. Rewrite from other perspectives

A story can be made considerably different or completely different by reproducing the same story from another character's perspective or changing the narrative voice. For instance, it is possible to voice minorities and/or oppressed groups by bringing up the protagonist or the narrator from such a group. At the same time, the point of view can be changed even within the third person omniscient narration. Such work can provide or serve as counter-narratives to the ‘Master narratives’ or ‘grand narratives’. Atwood’s ‘There Was Once’ in Good Bones (1993) is a fine example of a counter-narrative that challenges the traditional fairy tale ideologies, by voicing ‘a reader’ who supports the feminist ideologies.

7. It is not possible to bring out cultural changes without a former set of processes

The canonical work should also not be undervalued as they help the later work bring out the cultural changes through the technique of contrasting. According to Allington (2011), ‘without the former set of processes, there would be no cultural change’. At the same time, Allignton emphasizes the fact that creativity is not possible without conveying cultural change. Thus, the importance of canonical works is also re-established.

8. Think through the box

As new creations borrow much from the previous or the canonical works, the validity of the phrase ‘think outside the box’ can be questioned. As Tanggaard mentions, ‘creativity follows a course, the contours of which have already been set down by others’ (2012, p. 29). Therefore, it is clear that it is impossible to create something concentrating on ‘outside the box’, but both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of the box. Pope believes it would be complete and most flexible to combine both ‘outside the box’, and ‘inside the box’ to come up with the term; ‘through the box’ (2011, p. 261).

9. Be open to new knowledge to be creative

Creativity is best supported by one’s readiness to develop or educate their ability to be conscious of novel settings, sense, notice, or explore for the new, on the foundation of our understanding of what exists at present (Tanggard 2012, p. 30). Then, they will be able to see the existing paths in social practices and create novel ways and new kinds of practices, and institutions as the necessities arrive, according to Tanggard.

10. Allow some individuality

When creating something new, ‘supposedly ‘personal’ preference and ‘immediate perspective’ cannot and should never be banished from reckoning’. (Pope, 2011, p.259). If the readers find the materials predominantly related to themselves and exciting, they tend to prefer it more and remember the content better. Pope finds ignoring or playing down the individualising or idiosyncrasy cutting out much of what makes each person unique.


Allington, D 2011, ‘The Production of ‘Creativity’’ in J Swann, R Pope and R Carter (eds), Creativity in Language and Literature: The State of the Art, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp. 277-289.

Atwood, M 1993, ‘There Was Once’ in Good Bones, Virago, London, pp. 19-24.

Lethem, J 2007, ‘The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism’, Harper's Magazine, 6 June 2007, pp. 59-71.

Low, N 2014, ‘Photocopy Planet’ in Arms Race, Text Publishing, Melbourne, pp. 31-53.

McHugh, M F. 2011, ‘The Naturalist’ in After the Apocalypse, Small Beer Press, Easthampton, MA, pp. 1-28.

Okri, B 2016, ‘Don Quixote and the Ambiguity of Reading’ in D Hahn & M Valencia (eds), Lunatics, Lovers and Poets: Twelve Stories after Cervantes and Shakespeare, Hay Festival, Los Angeles, pp. 13-34.

Pope, R 2011, ‘Rewriting the Critical-Creative Continuum: ‘10x…’’ J Swann, R Pope & R Carter (eds), Creativity in Language and Literature: The State of the Art, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp. 250 - 264.

Tanggaard, L 2012, The Sociomateriality of Creativity in Everyday Life’, Culture and Psychology, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 20-32,

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