When I was asked by Eva’s editor and family to write a sequel to her much-loved book, The Secret of Platform 13, I was giddy with excitement. I’d read the first one when I was nine years old and loved it, so I couldn’t wait to return to her world and see her characters again – only this time, I could make them walk and talk and write them myself!
Unlike writing my other books, the Witch Wars and Bad Mermaids series, I had lots of ready-made characters and a world waiting for me. It made me realise that writing a new story for a favourite character is really helpful for your own creative writing. Sometimes playing in another author’s world is great practice for when you come to build your own.
Eva had set it up so the gump opens every nine years (a gump is a hidden portal to a magical island), so I knew I wanted to return nine years later – but what had happened in those nine years? Where were the characters now? Would any new characters join? What would the story be?
I decided to start with my favourite character and explore the story through her – so I brought back Odge Gribble! She was a main character in Eva’s story and an excellent hag hero. Like most hags, she dreams of having long ear hair and a warty face, but instead she just looks like a normal girl. She has one blue tooth though, and possibly an extra toe.
So the first thing you need to do to start your story is pick a character from a story you love. Re-read the story so it’s fresh in your head and then use these steps to help you build a brand new story.
Let’s chose, for the purpose of demonstration, Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
You need to decide:
- How old is the character now? Are we returning to the story 1 year, 10 years, 100 years later? For this example, let’s make Violet 20 years old.
- What was the character like in the original book? What was their story? The last time we saw Violet she swelled to the size of a blueberry and was taken off for juicing. Her favourite thing was chewing gum – she was obsessed with it. Now the big question….
- What does the character want now? Before, all she wanted was to win the chocolate factory, but now she wants to go even bigger, now she wants to build a rival factory to compete with Charlie’s! And since she’s so rich from all the TV interviews she’s done about being a blue human, she has the money to do it.
- What has happened since we last saw her? This is where you can let your imagination run wild – for example, she was juiced but despite shrinking back to a normal size, she’s still blue. She then became famous for being blue and obsessed with sweets.
- What happens next? She builds her factory! Charlie has never managed to perfect the 3 course gum that turned Violet into a blueberry all those years ago. Violet decides she’s going to make the 3 course gum. They race to create the gum (what weird and wonderful courses might they have?) Who will win?
- And that’s just the bare bones, you can flesh it out by bringing other things back and reimagining them – any other characters you want to bring back? What’s Willy Wonka doing now? The Oompa Loompas? Veruca Salt etc?
- Invent new characters! Maybe your story needs some exciting new faces!
- What objects could we use that might prove useful for our story? The golden tickets? The glass elevator?
- What happens in the end? Charlie realises she should’ve won in the first place! They join the factories to create Beauregarde-Bucket Sweets, together they perfect the chewing gum and they live happily ever after.