Hamlet – Inspiration Playlist

I typically move from “Momming” directly into writing, and sometimes need to do both at once. I use music to help with that transition, or inspirational You Tube playlists.

Since Marissa Meyer of The Lunar Chronicles is a huge influence on me, her writing playlist easily gets me into the mood of my Horatio story. It starts with Firefly, for criminy’s sake.

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

Enter a caption

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.

Hamlet Fan Fiction and the 2016 Elections

Years ago, someone put a bug in my ear for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which of course brought me to one of my favorite stories, Hamlet. I started exploring the idea of presenting them simultaneously so that audiences could choose to see one play, the other play, or mix and match at will. I began on the textwork. I quickly felt limited by thinking about it in theatrical terms.


I enlisted a razor sharp friend Abby Wilde who was willing to hash out our questions over


One of my favorite photos of Abby is when she worked with me on am outreach project : Shakespeare Everywhere

Google chat.

The more we questioned, the more confined we felt by Stoppard’s characterizations. Abby and I dropped Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and focused exclusively on Hamlet. 

We asked all the questions, we turned all assumptions on their head.

We “Gosford Park”-ed it. We looked at every servant and minor character’s motivations, questions, reasons for being there. Could they have much more to do with the story than to simply carry spears and deliver information? The more we dreamed beyond anything we’d seen on stage ourselves, the more possibilities we found and the more mysteries opened.

Here is where I understood how all my outreach, content writing, examination of journalism, obsession with those who write history, and desire to create art for social good, all collide.

check your sources memeIn this age of highly curated news feeds, need for black/white narratives, and the necessity to always check the source (and Snopes) before sharing an article, could I use the Hamlet story to help an audience think more critically during an election season – and beyond? By leading them through a story where in one scene you may believe Hamlet is correct, and in the very next you reconsider all your assumptions that led you to that conclusion?

Take the idea that everyone is the hero of their own story, flesh out all the characters’ stories and draw an individual to understand why those who are clearly the enemies at the beginning, really believe they are doing the right thing, and maybe, just maybe, the ‘good guys’ ….aren’t always good? I believe that storytelling through different narratives and perspectives can help people become better citizens within their world. Perhaps the Hamlet story is a way to test that theory.

That is the point where I felt even more constrained by the concept that this was to be a theatre project. While in continuing discussions with Noah J. Nelson, (NPR affiliate, Turnstyle News, No Proscenium) on immersive productions, I decided the best course of action was to continue exploring these stories with no idea of where the end product would land.

I only knew that my target audience was not those who are already enamored with Shakespeare. Oh, the Bard lovers will certainly satisfy their nerdy fix, but my major point was to move as far away from a traditional Shakespearean experience as possible and to serve as the gateway drug for people who just like a good mystery.

And that’s when I knew for sure that the product couldn’t start as theater, or I would once again only reach those who already enjoy live productions.

So during my son’s naps in the car, I furiously type or scribble what could be described as Hamlet fan fiction. These start as narratives simply to develop the back story and open up entirely new ideas. Many of the ideas about Horatio also tie into my other works, including a trilogy of plays called MYTHistories (the Fatima story, how Dionysus turned into the mythology of Jesus and a third centered around Houdini) as well as the novel in progress based on the Oresteia. Once I combined those long-simmering ideas with Hamlet, something clicked inside of me that I cannot shake.

In every one of these stories, a protagonist’s story and legacy is unknowingly being written by another, sometimes by their family’s expectations, then eventually through….others to be revealed.

I’m insanely thrilled at how all these ideas and obsessions of mine now foster such an intricate and creative universe. As a fan of the worlds in Tolkien, Marvel, Star Trek, Doctor Who and The Lunar Chronicles, and a lover of James Burke’s Connections, I know I can dive into this sci-fantasy-dystopian for some-utopian for others-Orwellian storyline and take it through centuries of development. I can gear it towards increasing the audience’s perspective, causing people to truly consider their sources and think about their decisions and how they can change their story for the better.

I need to allow the characters and their individual stories to dictate the genre and medium through which their perspective is told.

The idea of exploring the Hamlet story through many mediums, simply choosing the one best suited to each character and situation, excites me greatly. It is hard for the outreach strategist in me not to plot out every storyline and decide how to tell it, but I know the ideas must come organically.

Some of these stories need to be read before the 2016 election, no matter who’s your candidate. Voters must be educated in how to look beyond the headlines. I will share what I have here.

Of course, the Outreach Nerd in me has a larger scheme: by elaborating on stories that are somewhat known and building new perspectives within them, I eventually hope to overlap the readers with audience. Hosting multiple stories in same universe but found in varied genres and mediums holds a high potential for overlap, and one that could be more effective than any short term outreach strategy that exists in art forms today. Just look at how John Green’s YouTube presence helps his book/movie sales, and what he and his brother have been able to do for education with their fame among young people.