Is it safe to rewrite a story written many years ago, or would this be considered outlawed?
Plagiarism is defined by dictionary.com as: "the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work."
Unless the work is really really old and the copyright has expired, I wouldn't risk it.
I don't know if this will help or not, but I often take ancient stories and update them or bring them into modern times. I'm not necessarily rewriting them--I'm giving them a makeover.
I've "revised" (if that's the right word) the Odyssey, Romeo and Juliet, the Book of Ruth, and The Taming of the Shrew. Right now I'm working on updating the myth of Cupid and Psyche. I guess I enjoy trying to put a new spin on an old tale, and while I'm not always faithful to the original, I give it my best shot.
If your bent is satire, however, you can take apart any story ever written for your own nefarious (or comic) ends.
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