Researching and the Mash up Parody
Researching is always a unique experience based on the book you are writing.
You could say this book was born through a research trip. The genesis of Ebenezer Scrooge: Ghost Hunter was a Dickens Fair – much like a Renaissance Fair, except the participants explore the streets of London circa 1850.
As I watched the plethora of actors wander through the fair and was asked for my “drinking papers” at the pub, I fell head over heels in love with the time. Then the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come appeared on stage and scared a grown woman so much she screamed. Not too long after, the idea to mash up A Christmas Carol thundered through my head as I was trying to fall asleep.
Research for a book that is based on a famous classic is completely different than a typical work of fiction because there is a wealth of material to draw inspiration from. I started my research by watching the only movie adaptation of A Christmas Carol that was in my personal DVD library: A Muppet Christmas Carol.
It might seem like a silly choice, but it turned out to be the exact right choice for me. It was great to see the dynamic of playing key roles as different animals and gave me permission to really play in my imagination. Additionally, Gonzo portrays Dickens throughout the movie and (here’s the important part), quoted whole passages word for word. The movie was a springboard, to bounce ideas off of and imagine the same characters telling a different story.
Next came the reading. A Christmas Carol is in the public domain, so copies of the book are available for free in all sorts of formats. I read it through once on my iPad, then I settled down to the version on my computer, notating each and every place I saw an opportunity or challenge to overcome. This is where the idea for the new conflict and climax started to take shape.
When it came time to populate my story with supernatural villains, I immediately rejected vampires, werewolves, and zombies. They’ve become the stereotypical villains of horror. (Plus, zombies REALLY freak me out) The character slots were already defined within the story, but I wanted to give them a unique supernatural twist - as long as I could find the right myth – or one just close enough. I spent a long time on the Internet searching for myths and lore close to what I imagined.
The final piece of research was done long after the book was completed. I felt odd about putting my name next to Charles Dickens and wanted to read more about the original genius. It turns out; Dickens was a huge proponent of international copyright law. In his day, publishers in America were reprinting his works and he wasn’t seeing a dime. He toured America in 1842 to lobby his fellow writers to petition Congress. It would be 16 years after his death that the first formal international copyright laws would be drafted.
While the book was covered for a time by copyright laws, A Christmas Carol now falls into the public domain. That means that anyone can adapt the work and reprint the book, so long as certain rules are followed. (That was another research tangent tackled with the Internet.) If you ever consider mashing up a classic work, be sure it is in the public domain.
Though he probably wouldn’t be happy about the copyright implications, I think Dickens would be pleased that his story is a classic. At it’s heart, Ebenezer Scrooge: Ghost Hunter is still a story of redemption – but for a modern audience.