The thing is, when you tell a story you already know, you’re not telling the same story. It’s like all the versions of fairy tales, they all have the same plot and the same characters but they are different stories. It’s because telling stories isn’t, as Kitto put it, moving around figures from a Noah’s Ark, everything changes. (Zorinth found this out when he was quite small, when I told stories, as opposed to reading them, things moved about and acquired motivation. “It’s not supposed to have motivation, it’s a rock!”)
So I start thinking “Mansfield Park” and there’s this kind of dynamic of essential stuff and people and looking at that, right at once, I’m telling a story about three young people whose father dies and the eldest makes one choice and the middle one makes another choice and the youngest one… and what starts coming out is Mansfield Park the same way Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin is “Tam Lin” and Robin McKinley’s Deerskin is “Donkeyskin” and in a really really different way from the way Bridget Jones Diary and Raptor Red are Pride and Prejudice.
What I’m presently writing about is the character who exists to be Mrs. Norris heading off in a spaceship to the moons of Saturn
All this is only partly because it’s set in the twenty-fourth century where being female is an economic condition you don’t want to get stuck with long term.