Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction Challenge: ‘What if?’

This post was written in response to Charli Mills weekly flash fiction challenge.

January 5, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rattling sound. It can be an intimidating sound of protest, a disorienting loud sound, a musical expression or a gentle baby’s toy. Go where the prompt leads you. To take part, join in here!

january-5

Today’s flash was inspired by the Christmas season, which has just passed.

 

The Good Nephew

‘Go away,’ he shouted, covering his head with the woollen blanket, but the rattling grew louder.

‘Leave me alone!’ He was trembling.

More rattling.

‘I don’t want to go there again!’

‘I warned you last Christmas,’ came the ghostly echo with more thunderous rattling.    

Minutes later, the ghost discarded the heavy chains and stood by the skeletal corpse in the icy bedroom.

‘I was only reminding you to keep your promises,’ he said closing Ebenezer’s blank eyes.

Then he opened the safe where the miser kept the gold coins and dropped them into his purse.

‘Rest in peace, uncle.’

***

One of the strategies I use in my retellings of Victorian fiction are ‘what if questions.

In the case of A Christmas Carol I asked myself:

What  if Scrooge didn’t change after all?

What if there were never ghosts, just a trick to scare the old miser?

What if the nephew wasn’t such a good person?

What if his nephew, became more greedy and tired of waiting to inherit?

The same story with a ‘what if’ becomes another story, which is complimentary to the original story.  The more feasible the ‘What if’, the more credible your new version becomes.

christmas-carol-cover

There are many possible ‘what ifs’ to any story. Here are some more for A Christmas Carol:

What if Scrooge was an opium addict instead of a miser?

What if Scrooge wasn’t as rich as people thought?

What if the ghosts were time travellers?

What if his nephew was really his son?

What if Scrooge had killed Marley to take over the business?

The options are endless and exciting if the questions are reasonable. It can also work with ‘unreasonable’ what ifs.

For example, if I asked, ‘What if Scrooge was really Prince Albert who was bored at home with Queen Victoria?’ It might work as a nonsense story, but not as an alternative version.

In the Eyre Hall Trilogy, my sequel to Jane Eyre, some of my ‘what ifs’ were the following:

What if Bertha had a child in the attic?

What if Rochester had the child removed?

What if Bertha’s daughter returned to Eyre Hall as an adult to claim her birth right?

What if Rochester went back to his old ways shortly after marrying Jane?

What if Jane stopped loving Rochester?

What if Jane fell in love with another man?

And many, many, many more!

bertha-and-jane

Creating alternate, complimentary, versions of well known novels or stories is fun and creative, because it opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

I love reimagining fiction and reinventing stories.

Some people criticise me for doing so. I answer that writers have been borrowing stories and retelling them since pen was first put to paper (Chaucer, Shakespeare and Scott, did it all the time! Even Dickens did it occasionally).

My retellings are a tribute to the original authors and works, and I consider it an honour to be able to share my reimaginings with my readers.

Do you ever venture into the world of ‘what ifs’ in your writing?

Sequels, Prequels, Reinterpretations, Rewritings, and Writing Back…

When I am asked what my novel’s about, I reply briefly, “It’s a Victorian Gothic Romance, which takes place around All Hallows, at Eyre Hall, twenty-two years after Jane Eyre married Edward Rochester.” A typical reaction, before reading the novel, is:

“Oh, so it’s a sequel / follow-up / spin-off of the original?”

The answer is easy, “Yes, it is”, but also complex, “it’s much more than that.

Sequel, follow-up, or spin-off, are synonyms, that is they all refer to a work of literature, film, theatre, television, music, or game that continues the story of, or expands upon, an earlier work. Sequels usually portray the same fictional universe; setting, characters, and events, at a later date.

Although All Hallows at Eyre Hall is presented as the ‘Breathtaking Sequel to Jane Eyre’, it is also the sequel of Wide Sargasso Sea, because it is based on both novels. That is to say, I have taken the characters and events in both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, as my fictional reality, and the basis of my novel. The characters and events portrayed in both novels, come to life, once again, in a fictional blend, in my novel.

Just to remind you, although Wide Sargasso Sea was published in 1966, it is the fictional prequel to Jane Eyre, which tells the story of Bertha, Rochester’s first wife, and infamous ‘madwoman in the attic’.

In this sense, All Hallows at Eyre Hall is a sequel because it does portray a continuation of the original universe. Some of the characters are still present, some have died, and there are some new characters. The pre-existing characters are not exactly the same, because twenty-two years have passed, and fictional characters, as all people, evolve over time. The location is the same, although the specific setting has changed from Thornfield Hall, which was burnt down, to Eyre Hall, the mansion Mrs. Rochester rebuilt with the inheritance she received from her uncle, John Eyre.

Once readers have actually read it, they realize it’s not a typical sequel, and they say:

“Oh, you’ve reinterpreted / rewritten the original story.”
“Oh, you’ve written back to Charlotte Bronte.”

Well, that’s true, too. I’ve (irreverently, according to some), done all three. I am aware that my novel may disappoint some readers who had fallen in love with Edward Rochester, as Jane did. Unfortunately, I simply point out that Jane is in love with Rochester, and she is therefore an unreliable, or at least biased, narrator. On the other hand,  she gives me all the background information I use in my novel to expose Rochester as the villain he always was. This does not mean Jane and Rochester’s love story was a fake. It is one of the greatest literary love stories of all time, but that doesn’t mean they were perfect, or flawless characters.

I have reinterpreted Jane Eyre, based on reading between and closely into the lines Charlotte Bronte wrote. Jean Rhys, a Creole herself, was the first to ‘write back’ to Charlotte Bronte from a postcolonial perspective. Rhys gave voiceless, mad, imprisoned Bertha, the freedom, voice, and life, which Jane Eyre had denied her.

By incorporating Rhys’s thesis into my novel, I am indulging in the same rebellious literary trend. Moreover, I have also added to Rhys’s theories, by incorporating more subplots, which I picked up from spaces I found in the original. I can’t go into greater detail without including spoilers, but I have based my recreation on facts I found in Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre is is the origin of this magnificent literary creation. It is the reason why Jean Rhys wrote Wide Sargasso Sea, and both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, are the reason why I wrote All Hallows at Eyre Hall. Looking at the three novels, which form a trilogy in my literary imagination, they are complimentary, although they can stand on their own. Each novel can be read independently, however, as they are all part of the same story, of Jane Eyre’s story, if the three have been read (not necessarily consecutively), the reader will enjoy the experience even more.

So, have I written a sequel to Jane Eyre?

Yes, I have. I’ve written a sequel to both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea, based on a close reading and subsequent reinterpretation of the characters and events portrayed in both novels. I’ve then used my own creative license, to imagine events twenty-two years after Jane’s marriage. My aim has been to reconcile both works of art. Jane and Bertha, both Mrs. Rochesters will come face to face, and over time, as my trilogy progresses, Bertha will be reinstated and the wrongs she suffered will be repaired. How? It’s all in the Eyre Hall Trilogy