Regular readers will known that for the last six months I have been working on a horror-comedy novelette about a group of friends on a zombie run. Their dark yet humorous antics take place on a fictional island just off the coast of an unspecified port town of the south coast of England (for anybody who knows the area, I’m thinking Sussex-Hampshire area, roughly between Hayling Island and Chichester).
It’s coming along quite nicely, something like 15,000 words long now and I have hit a fork in the road where I am going to split the group up. Over Christmas, I had another idea I want to play with. It’s quite radical and I’m not sure it will work, or whether people will be interested in reading it. I may even abandon it if I can’t gather enough steam, but here goes…
It will feature the same people on the same island. It will feature zombies too and a daring escape from the island, yet in this story, the island will be a prison community. The three men will be inmates and the one woman will probably be sister or ex-girlfriend to one of the men (perhaps both – as in, sister to one man and the ex girlfriend of another). Her reason for being on the island is not yet clear – perhaps the island will be home to two prisons, one for men and one for women. The men will still be taking part in a game having been chosen by their fellow inmates to do the Zombie Run for their chance of freedom. Without revealing too much, there are several key scenes that could easily be rewritten for adaptation to this new story and much of it will be similar to events, but not identical.
This has been done before – we call them Mirror Stories. If anyone saw the Black Mirror episode White Christmas last week, you’ll know what I mean – some of the scenes in that story mirrored plots from previous stories in this weird conceptual series from Charlie Brooker. Stephen King did it too with Desperation and The Regulators (both plots followed similar threads, using the same characters with parallel plot development so I know I won’t be setting a precedent and if self-publishing allows anything, it is the ability to take a chance on something like this.
This new version won’t be a comedy, but more of a conventional survival horror. I expect it to be darker and far more brutal to juxtapose with the comedy. Therefore, I may end up releasing both versions in one volume. It also means a title change for the original story to what was my favourite – Dead Heat. The mirror story will have the title Dead Lock.
I’m anxious about whether it could work or whether I should even invest so much time and effort into a story I am not sure will work at this stage. Has anybody else ever tried something like this? Have you ever produced a second version of the same story that was completely different in terms of tone and style? If so, what were the results?