My Problem with a Ghost

I’m having trouble with a Ghost.

Hamlet, the sorry I’m adapting, hinges on Hamlet’s investigation into whether or not the Ghost of his father is angel or demon, telling the truth or sending him into eternal damnation.

We obviously need that inciting incident in the story. It changes Hamlet’s entire world and

Hamlet cover

The Ghost is such an iconic figure that it often serves as the cover art for the play.

world view.

A Ghost just doesn’t fit into this specific world that I created around Shakespeare’s story. Yet we need Hamlet to have that connection to his dead father, and we need to learn that truth (specifically from his dead father).

Since I wrote the first 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo, and realized this problem halfway through, I made the decision not to go back and fix it right then. (That is also my procrastination M.O.: perfect the beginning and middle until I never finish the end.)

Last night my mind drifted while my.husband put our son to sleep (you can only listen to Chim Chim enee on repeat for so long before drifting yourself), and I dreampt about the next scene I have to tackle, the play within the play (within my novel). The direct result of that scene cements the truth we learn from the Ghost, and I think I had a breakthrough.

I also got to thinking more about what the concept of a Ghost means to me, and other people. Growing up Catholic, one of the Trinity that is worshipped is The Holy Ghost (of no one in particular as far as I know). We usually referred to “The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit,” which I suppose made it less of a psychic reading and more mysterious. And the Catholic religion does love its mysteries.

That holds a ton of meaning in the original play I’m adapting, Hamlet, but not necessarily in my world. I started remembering when in my life I did believe in ghosts.

My mother’s family, the Catholic side, does (or at least the older generation). We were constantly told that our dead Uncle Jimmy still appeared in his old room and you could feel his presence. Many of my cousins who lived in that room claimed they saw him. It was sort of cool to see a Ghost.

My sister has a different father, and we stayed with those grandparents and great aunt a lot. When the great aunt died, I remember as a four year old being told if I sat in her chair, I could feel her presence. I remember not being able to sit in the chair because something physical was between me and the seat. I remember thinking that must be her Ghost and then I started crying.

Then I think I might not have liked being physically forced into a chair so I could feel a goddamned Ghost and that probably made my imagination go haywire.

We are inclined to believe what we want to believe. My husband easily debunks Ghost Hunters and other stories of sightings. It was partly through my relationship to him that I came to the realization that I don’t believe in God, that the concept of a Christian God is no better than Greeks believing that Apollo moved the sun around the earth with his chariot or the Vikings trying to find a reason why Thor is so upset with them that they experience a thunderstorm.

Back to the Ghost Problem in my novel. In the source material, it is rarely a question of whether the Ghost is real because more people than Hamlet see it and in the end, we learn the Ghost told the truth. In the world of Scribe Shoppes, however, where my story takes place, an actual Ghost just makes no sense.

And here is where I understand how a true re-telling unfolds. I had a slightly different take on the story when I began, and as new problems arise, I have to work out how to address them and stay within the rules of the world I created. In the process, I must adjust the plot, and choose the idea that can deepen the story underneath, the story I am telling, the one that makes my novel an adaptation and not merely fan fiction.

Enough talking about it and back to revising.

Mabinogi G13

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This is a still from an interesting You Tube channel I found. Watch this segment if you want to see a cut version of the Ghost’s encounter with his son.


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