What is more exciting than being the only one of your friends who understands the obscure–or even totally obvious–reference to a great work of literature, play, or piece of music? Well, I’m sure there are things more exciting than that, but everyone likes to make connections and understand inside jokes.
Growing up, my best friend was not quite the literary nerd that I was, and her mother inspired her to complete her English assignments by telling her that the reason to read literature was so she would understand the jokes about it later. Not exactly the best way to foster a love of reading, but true nonetheless.
People like to make connections, so it is natural for writers to connect to the books and characters that touched them at some point in their lives. And writers do it all the time. On a small scale, they are called allusions, little references within a larger work. On a grander scale, there are sequels and rewrites. People have been doing it for ages. Just think of how many Bible stories have been transformed into books, musicals, songs, you name it.
All I’m saying is that this stuff ain’t new.
I remember my first experience with a retelling of a familiar story that focused on minor characters. Eleventh grade: we had studied Hamlet
, and we watched the movie Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
, based on the play of the same name by Tom Stoppard. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the movie, except that it focused on two guys who didn’t last very long in Shakespearean play. (I was in high school, for crying out loud. I could barely remember who Yorick was right after reading the play. On a quiz, I wrote that he was Hamlet’s college buddy. Hey, in my defense, he would have known his college buddy well, right? Heh. See what I did there? An allusion
. Admit it. You liked it.)
Anyway, I thought focusing on minor characters was a cool idea. It was like finding another story inside the story that needed to be told. Since then, I’ve been wondering what the other minor characters from literature had been up to. And that’s how Charlotte Collins came to be. After reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I knew what happened to Jane, Bingley, Darcy, and Elizabeth. In my mind, they all lived happily ever after. Their stories were finished. But what about poor Charlotte? I wanted to know about her.
Sequels, retellings, and fanfic have been around since the first caveman told a story around his fire. I’m sure of it. People connected to the story and the characters, and they want to hand it down in their own way. It’s human nature, I think.
Shoot, there’s even a retelling of the retelling: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead.
I haven’t seen it.