A Literary Agent Suggests These Slight Revisions To Franz Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’

Dear Mr. Kafka,

I received your manuscript, “Metamorphosis.” By the very first line, I was struck: “When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from troubled dreams, he found himself changed into a monstrous cockroach in his bed.”

Wow. You have my full attention. And with a few revisions on your part, Mr. Kafka, I believe “Metamorphosis” could be the next New York Times bestseller.

1.)    Does Gregor have to become a cockroach? The demographic for stories about cockroaches, especially gigantic ones, is surprisingly small. Perhaps the story would be more marketable if Gregor woke up as a giant caterpillar. Still would have that “shock value,” but readers might better identify with something fuzzier. Which brings me to my next point.

2.)    The Hero’s Journey? This draft lacks it. I would be inclined to know what changes Gregor into a caterpillar. Was he bitten by a radioactive caterpillar during a school field trip? Did a plucky young wizard come across a book of forbidden spells that transformed Gregor? I’m sure a writer of your ingenuity can salvage “Metamorphosis” with a dazzling origin story.

3.)    Now? Once the origin’s clear, then you as an author must lay out the obstacles that are keeping Gregor from becoming a butterfly. Bullying? Teenage pregnancy? Xanax addiction? The possibilities are endless. To complete Gregor’s story arc, tell us—the readers—how he’ll be changed by changing into a butterfly. Give us a little sizzle with our steak.

4.)    In fact, let me take one more step in suggesting further cast development. Since Gregor spends a great chunk of the plot hiding on a sofa, this makes him not a very proactive protagonist. Audiences eat up proactive protagonists. Think Luke Skywalker. Think Tyler Durden. Think Clarice Starling. Perhaps if you shifted the focus of “Metamorphosis” onto Gregor’s younger violin-playing sister, Grete, it’d solve that problem. She and her brother, the caterpillar, could stumble together into musical adventures. Limitless potential!

5.)    Finally, since Grete’s sixteen, you could tell the story from her point-of-view and refashion it for the YA market, which is very profitable. One idea? Her playing the violin at the climax could be when she realizes for the first time that she’s become a woman. This music might also awaken something inside Gregor, turning him from caterpillar into butterfly. Metamorphosis complete. That now gives the title a double meaning.

Our agency would love to take on your work in progress if you, of course, make these minor tweaks. We would also expect this to be the first installment in a trilogy with merchandising potential. This isn’t a firm yes from us, Mr. Kafka. But it isn’t a hard no. Looking forward to your response.

Samson Buck

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