My big upcoming project: Doug remakes The Thing in the Lake by Eleanor M. Ingram

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Summary: I am curious about the possibilities of public domain works. Part of me has wanted to rewrite one for a while and the first candidate will most likely be Eleanor M. Ingram's The Thing in the Lake. I want to increase the horror factor, change the interpersonal relationship of some of the characters, move it in time and space to a different place, and radically change the point of the whole thing.

Monday, 08 February 2010

(01:37:49 CST)

My big upcoming project: Doug remakes The Thing in the Lake by Eleanor M. Ingram

When I started reading Eleanor M. Ingram's The Thing in the Lake (go ahead and click the link, it's FREE! Thanks to Project Gutenberg); I thought I would be dealing with a pre-Lovecraftian rural horror novel with your standard unattached city boy displaced by his own slovenly richness and with critters from the deep lagoon of Freudian psycho-sexual desire coming in the wet night to molest and digest him. What I got was something, I don't know, unexpected. The book is much closer to the currently vogue near-horror sub-genre Dark Romance than anything; though most of it pulses with a deep mystery of "Is this woman really an ally, or some dark spirit that is just screwing around?" that keeps it somewhat fresher than some of the torrid pedophile-as-vampires storylines. It has a habit of getting really stupid, and then redeeming itself, just to jump back into the stupid pool. All so it can redeem itself. Twice, now, I have thought about giving it up but I think it will be an overall worthwhile read. I have not finished it, yet, but I have made it past the half-way point and I am into the whole "let's explain things" stage of the novel. I'll let you know how it goes.

Something, though, has occurred to me. This book is public domain. This means that it exists in a free-to-use, free-to-remix sort of state. What about remake? Book remakes happen, sometimes quite often, but usually in much more indirect ways: Pastiches, updates, unofficial sequels, and official sequels that are done by other-than-author. None of them are taken properly seriously. Most pastiches are notches worse than the original and only differentiate themselves from fan fiction by costing money. Most of the unofficial sequels seem to miss the point and toss in "awesome" or "hilarious" scenes for flavor. Official sequels by other-than-author can be good, but nearly always scream: "How about some more cash, eh?"

What I am thinking about has to do with a couple of things, and the first is a common fact: there are only a few great works of horror and science fiction from the now-pubdom era that do not have at least once scene that makes you go "what?" Some have several scenes. Most of them, these little weirdnesses only add to the quirk, some even enhance the better portions by contrast. Some of these works, though, become unreadable because of them. All of these are now up for the ability to rewrite, to tweak, to try again. It's not really done. I do not know why. If Hollywood can remake a movie and sell it for profit, why hasn't the book industry tried doing the same with pubdom works?

How many times have you started reading a book, had an awesome feel for where it is going, only to have the direction off in some other, way less cool, direction? How about, it goes off in a perfectly find direction, but misses some element that would have made it better? A sense of wonder and more primal terror that is overlooked for a cheaper hook?

In the case of The Thing in the Lake, it is also because I thought another book was on my screen that what was. I got geared up for one book, and found another. Now I want to write the book I thought was coming, except I also want to acknowledge the other bits of the novel as well by keeping the oveall meta-plot full in effect. What this means is a chapter by chapter restructuring, using Ingram's pacing and stagings but changing how the characters react, what the threat is, and so forth. Ending somewhere near where she ends, maybe, but with a different reason for being there.

Now, it is too early to know for sure what I will have to do to restructure and remake it, but here are some changes that I foresee happening (most of these won't make sense unless you know the original, which I doubt many of you will, but for my notes):

  • Move the action from New England (?) to the South East and the date from the 1910s or so to now the mid-90s or roundabout now.
  • Change the main character from a musician to a poet, mostly because I know more about that field that writing professional tunes.
  • The cousin will no longer be a girl who failed out of college, who looks plain but is a good house-wife. I'm thinking something a bit more complex: full marks at school sort of person who ended up with a manipulative man and was only just saved by her cousin's kindess, but is caught up in some weird emotional issues.
  • Rather than Ethan Vere being a regular "good old boy" sort, he will be more manipulative and darker of a character.
  • Increase the relationship tension between Roger and his cousin. Kind of a forbidden love thing, but a little more complex than that. Not precisely sexual, but his saving of her triggers some issues within him.
  • The Thing will be much less personable.
  • The "good visitor" will be much more a state of mind than a whole other persona. In fact, I think his cousin will very much so be the gateway for this visitor.

Those are the rough changes, which does change much of the point, I admit. At the same time, I am interested in seeing how well the story holds up while becoming a different sort of horror novel altogether.

Si Vales, Valeo


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