I was still at school the first time it happened to me. A friend lent me Gone With The Wind, and since even then I was a committed lover of the happy ending, she assured me that everything turned out okay in the end. I sobbed through the final chapters waiting for the reversal that never came. I dealt with it by imagining my own version of the story, and I’ve never re-read the original since. I’m still on speaking terms with the ‘friend’ who caused my book trauma, but it was touch and go for a while.
I’ve been revisiting the question this week following a trip to the ballet. I went to see a new re-telling of Frankenstein, expecting it to be brilliant. It could/should have been. The creator was the talented and musical young English choreographer Liam Scarlett. There was a brand new score by one of America’s best-known living composers, Lowell Liebermann. Brilliant dancers. Good lighting. Great sets. And it was all for nothing, because the narrative didn’t work. I think the plan was to stay true to the source material, which was never going to fly with only a couple of hours’ worth of stage time. Neither Frankenstein nor the Creature got the character development they deserved, which meant I didn’t care what happened to them. I even cheered inside when the backdrop turned flame-red, because it meant the evening was almost over. I spent the tube journey home creating storyboards in my head.
Twilight was another one. I was team Jacob all the way. Obviously he wasn’t going to get the girl, and I was okay with that, but I really disliked the way Stephenie Meyer resolved the Bella-Edward-Jacob triangle (I doubt this would bother her over-much, just sayin’).
And Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. Have to confess that I loved sparkly, attractive Henry Crawford and I thought Fanny Price would have had a much more entertaining life with him than with stodgy, righteous old Edward.
If I hadn’t given up on Stephanie Plum, I’d have made her choose between Morelli and Ranger long ago. (Pretty sure Janet Evanovich doesn’t agree 😉 ).
And I didn’t so much re-write Dorothy Dunnett’s Gemini as scream at my own stupidity and story blindness. I read and loved her six-volume series the Lymond Chronicles, set in sixteenth-century Europe, so when I’d finished I naturally started on The House of Niccolo, an eight-book series set in the late fifteenth-century Renaissance Europe. The hero is a talented boy of uncertain birth who schemes his way to dizzy success in merchant banking and politics. The geographical and political scope is ambitious. The hero is more morally ambiguous than Lymond, but no less fascinating. I read to the end expecting the same satisfying conclusion and discovered all too late that the entire point of the whole series is that it’s a prequel to the Lymond Chronicles. Gah. I wanted a new story, not the same one, so I ignored all the signals. The blurb on Amazon calls the book Dorothy Dunnett’s ‘piece de resistance.’ In my house, it was a wallbanger.
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who indulges in a little creative re-writing. From memory, I think Jenny Crusie told us in class that Patricia Gaffney became a novelist because she hated the ending of a book she’d otherwise loved, so she wrote a new version of it for herself. Hope I got that right. Turned out okay for her.
So, how about you? What stories would you change or have you mentally re-written? What was it about the story that wound you up?