Writers need to learn how to become spinmasters. Each author, storyteller or poet should be able to put a new spin on classic tales. Everything from Humpty Dumpty to Shakespeare is game. It is open season on all forms of mythological and legendary characters such as John Henry, Johnny Appleseed, and Li'l Jack Horner.
I learned in an American literature class long ago how the themes of stories are as old as time: man versus nature, man versus man, and so on. The professor explained how every story from Oedipus and Othello all the way up to The Godfather, The Grapes of Wrath and Les Miserables unfolded the same (or, at least similar) themes. If that is the case, then why not learn to take your spin on the old story themes to a new level?
The new level that I am speaking of is nothing new. Steinbeck borrowed from Shakespeare in the title Of Mice and Men. Maya Angelou borrowed from Paul Laurence Dunbar when she entitled her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. We have to learn how to take harpies and turn them into modern devilsih divas. Make a gentle giant out of Hercules in a modern romance. Create a scene of man against machine with a Manga-like story that pits a frustrated software engineer against a menacing computer virus with Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name of" blaring in the background. Learn how to put a new spin on things.
If you try it, you will see that the sacred cows of classic literature are prime targets for creative genius to go to work, creating a new and unique reference point for a new era of readers.