Trading Places as a Literary Device on a Freaky Friday

If you are lucky enough to have a daughter, you know that sometimes the relationship can get stressed. No matter how much you have in common, the generational difference of twenty, thirty, or forty years can cause a big divide. Perhaps you’ve found yourself imagining, if she can only see it from my perspective. Meanwhile, said daughter is probably thinking the exact same thing—maybe.

Well, that’s the premise of Freaky Friday, the name of a children’s novel, several movies, and most recently a musical show, just opened at Colonial Players in Annapolis, Maryland. My multi-talented friend Jane Elkin invited me and my husband to the invited dress rehearsal last night and it was the first time we’d sat inside a theater since the onset of the pandemic two years ago.  Writer, singer, actress, teacher Jane is one of several ensemble players who assume multiple roles while the mother Katherine and daughter Ellie in the story are played respectively by Jamie Erin Miller and Abbie Smith.  

 This show was performance ready in the spring of 2020, but was put on hold due to the Coronavirus. A number of the original high school students performing in the show, no longer available, had to be replaced. Whether they stepped in on relatively short notice or have been waiting for the show to open, the entire cast—veterans and newbies—are outstanding.

 This is an exuberant musical with complicated dance choreography performed miraculously in a small theater in the round. My favorite musical numbers were set in the high school and featured dancing atop desks in the biology lab and a competitive work-out in the gym. If you love musicals like I do, and you live in the Washington D.C./ Baltimore region, weekend performances run through May 15th.

As I remember, the 2003 film version of Freaky Friday with Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis, is quite different, so I did a little research.

Freaky Friday, was initially a comedic children’s novel by Mary Rodgers published by Harper & Row in 1972. The thirteen-year-old daughter Annabelle is a willful tomboy who wakes up in her mother’s body after wishing she be freed from her mother’s bossiness. The book focuses on Annabelle’s experiences and viewpoint as she attempts to manage life as an adult.

Three Freaky Friday movies were made in 1976, 1995, and 2003. The first two were made by Disney Studios and retained the original daughter and mother names from the novel. In the 2003 version, the names are changed to Tess and Anna. A major difference in the film adaptations when compared to the children’s novel, is the addition of an outside influence to precipitate the physical switch of the two bodies. In one case it is a magical amulet, and in another it is a Chinese fortune cookie. Both mother and daughter characters in the film versions must grapple with what it means to be younger or older and have a different set of responsibilities and challenges. The daughter is sixteen with hobbies and romantic interests while the mother is a professional with romantic interests of her own.

Children’s Novel

In 2018, Disney adapted the story again into a musical, changing the names to Katherine and Ellie. The transformational vehicle is a magical hour-glass. The mother is a caterer planning her own wedding. The daughter, holding anger from her father’s death three year’s earlier, is struggling in school and anxious to participate in an evening scavenger hunt organized by a boy she idolizes.

Mark Twain successfully used the trading of identities in The Prince and The Pauper (1881) when two young men who look remarkably alike decide they want to experience life in a different socio-economic class. In his subsequent novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889) it is the setting that changes, as a 19th century young man is magically transported back to the time of King Arthur.

Every time a writer pens a story, they put themselves into the mindset of the characters they are creating. See the world, if only for a few moments through someone else’s eyes, and you gain both empathy and knowledge.

So, here’s a writing prompt: Describe a conflict between two characters. Maybe they’re fighting over an object. Why is that object so important to them? What will they do or say to get it? Give yourself twenty minutes and set what you’ve written aside. Now, write the same scene again from the other character’s perspective. Try it again and change the setting location.

Balancing the opposing interests of two characters is something I was grappling with in my short story The “C” Word. Here it is for your reading pleasure.

Follow me at SN Maril on Twitter. If you have any favorite writing prompts, I’d like to hear them and thank you for reading.

Photo by August de Richelieu on

Published by Nadja Maril

Nadja Maril is a communications professional who has over 10 years experience as a magazine editor. A writer and journalist, Maril is the author of several books including: "American Lighting 1840-1940", "Antique Lamp Buyer's Guide", "Me, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat", and "Runaway, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat". Her short stories and essays have been published in several small online journals including Lunch Ticket, Change Seven, Scarlet Leaf Review and Defunkt Magazine. She has an MFA in creative writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. Former Editor-in-Chief of What's Up ? Publishing, former Editor of Chesapeake Taste Magazine a regional lifestyle magazine based in Annapolis, and former Lighting Editor of Victorian Homes Magazine, Maril has written hundreds of newspaper and magazines articles on a variety of subjects..

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