My senior year of high school, we studied Hamlet in English class. Of all the Shakespearean play we studied, it was definitely my favorite, but I didn’t like the end. Of course, I didn’t want everyone to die, especially Hamlet. I mean, he has worked all throughout the play to avenge his father’s murder, and has finally succeeded. Then he dies? Even worse for me was Fortinbras. Who was this guy? He didn’t even make an appearance until the very end, and he gets to just walk on the stage in the last scene and become the king? It bothered me. I thought Hamlet and Fortinbras should at least meet. So when the teacher assigned us to write an essay about Hamlet, I instead rewrote the last scene. In the process, I learned a couple things about writing.
I ended up keeping virtually all of the dialog from the original, and I only added one or two lines. And yet, by simply rearranging the lines, that part of the story progressed in different direction. I learned that very small changes can make a very profound difference to the final story. There are two ways that this can affect writing. First, if something isn’t working, a major overhaul may not be necessary to fix it. Second, rewriting is a art, and if I’m not careful, I could change a lot more than I expect.
The biggest thing that I learned, however, was that I couldn’t make all the changes I wanted to. I originally imagined Hamlet fighting (and defeating) Fortinbras, staying alive, and becoming the king. As I tried to write it, I realized that it really wouldn’t work that way. The story had been leading in a certain direction, and I couldn’t change it all unless I went back and rewrote the whole play. In the end, although I had Hamlet fight Fortinbras and beat him, Hamlet still died. Fortinbras still became the king. Writing is about finding the story, not forcing it to be what I want.