Recycling Familiar Characters: Sue Barnard Breathes New Life into Old Stories

Today’s guest post comes from Sue Barnard, a member of the Manchester Crafty Writers’ group, whose debut novel, The Ghostly Father, makes an excellent Valentine’s present for anyone who loves the story of Romeo and Juliet.

NEW LIFE FOR OLD

Sebastian Faulks, Charlie Higson and Anthony Horowitz have all done it for James Bond. Alexandra Ripley did it for Scarlett and Rhett. Jill Paton Walsh did it for Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, and more recently PD James has done it for the characters from Pride and Prejudice. There have been numerous attempts to solve Charles Dickens’ unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood. And even Thomas the Tank Engine has been given a new lease of life, by the son of his original creator.

So what is it that makes authors want to write new stories centred on existing characters?

In one respect, I think, it’s because once the original author has died, there can be a great sense of regret that there will be no more from the same pen. So if the authors’ stories and characters are popular, why not give their fans more to enjoy, in the form of sequels, prequels, or simply more adventures? Or you can even give the original story an alternative ending. More on this later.

You don’t need to be a famous, or even a published, author to take advantage of this very useful literary device. Using a well-loved character (or set of characters) as the basis for a new story can be an excellent way of dealing with an attack of writer’s block. Think of a favourite character from a book, a play, or even a poem. Imagine what it might be like to meet that character face to face. What would you say to them? How do you think they would respond? Try writing a short dialogue between the two of you, and see where it leads. You may well find that it gives you a springboard to a whole new story. No writing is ever wasted, even if it doesn’t end up in the final version.

Or think about how the character behaves in the original work. If his or her behaviour is unusual, what might have happened in the past to affect actions in the present? Let your imagination run riot – prequels make fascinating stories!

When, more than thirty years ago, I saw Franco Zeffirelli’s wonderful film of Romeo & Juliet, I came away thinking: Why did it all have to go so horribly wrong? That question has haunted me ever since.

Then, a few years ago, I read one of those lists of Things You Must Do Before You Die. To be honest I found most of them pretty underwhelming, but the one which stood out was Write the book you want to read. And this was what first inspired me to start writing the book I’ve always wanted to read: the version of Romeo & Juliet which has a satisfactory outcome. (I’m not by any means the first person to have attempted to re-write the Bard. As far back as 1681, a writer called Nahum Tate produced an alternative version of King Lear, in which Cordelia marries Edgar, and Lear regains his throne at the end!)

The Ghostly Father

My debut novel The Ghostly Father (published by Crooked Cat Publishing in 2014) takes the form of a backstory for the character of Friar Lawrence, and is a sort of part-prequel, part-sequel to the original Romeo & Juliet story. It explores what might have happened to Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers if events had taken an alternative course. In the play, the lovers fall victims to a sequence of misfortunes which combine to produce a double-catastrophe. But what if just one of those unfortunate events had not occurred? What difference could this have made?

Read the book and find out…

About the Author

Sue Barnard

Sue was born in Wales some time during the last millennium. After graduating from Durham University with a degree in French, she returned to Manchester (where she had spent her formative years) and got married, then had a variety of office jobs before leaving the world of paid employment to become a full-time parent.  If she had her way, the phrase “non-working mother” would be banned from the English language.

Sue is now a member of the editorial team of Crooked Cat Publishing, who also publish her debut novel The Ghostly Father (a new interpretation of the Romeo & Juliet story).

She lives in Cheshire and Anglesey with her husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.

You can find her blog at: http://broad-thoughts-from-a-home.blogspot.co.uk/

Clues to Writing A Brilliant Mystery Story: Kate Pankhurst Investigates

Sometimes when you meet an author in person you find yourself delighted they’re published, because they’re so nice, and the world is a better place for their books.

I met Kate Pankhurst in York a month or so ago, when we both attended the second of Sara Grant’s wonderful workshops on editing. We got talking, and I asked if she’d like to contribute a post to this blog. Being the lovely person she is, she not only wrote a post but illustrated it as well. Here’s what she has to say about writing a mystery story:

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An Insight into World Building from Curtis Jobling

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of author, Curtis Jobling, who is the ideal person to shed a little light on how to create believable alternate worlds in our fiction. He is the designer for Bob the Builder, with its world of talking machines; creator of Raa Raa the Noisy Lion, full of adventures set in the Jingly Jangly Jungle; and author of the fantasy series, Wereworld, an epic journey of fantasy and horror.

Here’s what he has to say about World Building:

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Writing Advice From Acclaimed Author Marcus Sedgwick

I first came across Marcus Sedgwick when I read his YA novel, My Sword Hand is Singing, and have been a fan ever since. His 2011 novel, Midwinterblood, was shortlisted for this year’s Carnegie Medal, and having read it I can see why. So when I heard he was about to release a new book, I asked him if he might share with us a little of the secret of his success.  Here’s what he had to say:

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Looking at Your Writing with a Fresh Eye: Bob Burke Explains

One of the really nice things about being an aspiring writer celebrating the successes of other writers you meet along the way. Many years ago I was a member of the online writer’s forum YouWriteOn, where I got to know several writers who are now successfully published. One of these was Bob Burke, author of the Third Pig Detective Agency series.

It’s strange to think that by providing feedback for early drafts of Bob’s first book, I helped in some small way. So I thought I’d ask Bob what he thought about writers’ feedback and critique groups.

Here’s what he said: Continue reading

Writing Children’s Fiction: A Writers’ and Artists’ Companion by Linda Newbery and Yvonne Coppard

I’m planning to run a free creative writing workshop at Stockport Central Library on the 10th of August. The workshop is on how to help your reader visualise the story you’ve written in their mind’s eye and I want to use a worksheet which has extracts from other writers showing examples of how to do this. Being the conscientious girl I am, I wrote to each author seeking permission to photocopy their extract. One of the extracts is from The Shell House by Linda Newbery, a book I read as part of my MA course. When Linda replied granting permission (all the authors did. Writers are incredibly nice people) she mentioned that she had co-authored a book on writing fiction for children (with Yvonne Coppard) which was launched yesterday.

I couldn’t help myself. I asked if she’d write a guest post telling us about the book.

Here’s what Linda has to say about it: Continue reading

Finding the Diamonds in Your Creative Writing with Bryony Pearce

Good things come in threes. And today, I’m happy to welcome my third 2008 SCBWI Undiscovered Voices winner to the blog. Steve Hartley and Sara Grant have already offered some excellent advice on writing for comic effect and knocking your first draft into shape. Here’s what Bryony Pearce has to say about the careful use of adjectives and adverbs. Continue reading