Long before my favorite new show, “Sleepy Hollow” aired—-long before it was even pitched—-I came up with an idea for my own Sleepy Hollow. Something I thought was fresh and unique. A retelling from Katrina Van Tassel’s point of view.
But with great ideas come great problems. Like…uh…what now? Ideas don’t usually come with built-in plots. That’s up to us. I wrestled with it a while, then…
The hard part. Actually writing it.
Historicals = lots of research x limited word choices.
Great idea conceived. Check.
Plot plotted. Check.
1793 historical voice. Check.
Retelling classic literature is a slippery slope. I knew there would be purists who’d look at my creative license like it was a fake I.D. But thankfully those were few and far between. Here are a few ways I twisted Washington Irving’s tale:
*(These are comparisons of characters NOT prose. I’m not that stupid!)
He was tall and exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, and feet that might have served for shovels. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weathercock perched upon his spindle neck, to tell which way the wind blew. To see him striding along on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering about him, one might have mistaken him for some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield.
Then I saw him, ambling toward us. My heart danced like never before. This young man was eons from the warty old toad we’d imagined. He couldn’t have been more than three years older than us. And with his waistcoat unfastened and shirt rolled at the cuffs, he hardly seemed the teacher sort. Though he did carry what looked like a small journal and a lead pencil in his hand.
She was a blooming lass of fresh eighteen, plump as a partridge, ripe and melting and rosy-cheeked as one of her father's peaches, and universally famed, not merely for her beauty, but her vast expectations. She was withal a little of a coquette, as might be perceived in her dress. She wore ornaments of pure yellow gold to set off her charms, and a provokingly short petticoat to display the prettiest foot and ankle in the country round.
(Upon endeavoring to dig up the Horseman’s bones)
Near four in the morning I dressed, wearing no stays or petticoats to hinder my work. I slipped into a shift, then a simple woolen dress. Both could easily be knotted at the hem. I put on two pairs of wool stockings for warmth, and tied my hair back with twine instead of ribbon. My slippers would get me as far as the stables, where I’d placed a pair of Father’s sturdy boots. To fit, I’d tucked rolled linen into the toes. My cloaks kept me sufficiently warm, but their hems caught easily on my heels. So I took one of Father’s overcoats too.
He was always ready for either a fight or a frolic; but had more mischief than ill-will in his composition; and with all his overbearing roughness, there was a strong dash of waggish good humor at bottom. He had three or four boon companions, who regarded him as their model, and at the head of whom he scoured the country, attending every scene of feud or merriment for miles round.
“Brom, I don’t have those feelings for you.” Even if I did, I could never put up with his endless brawling and half-witted stunts. He, along with Marten and Garritt, were always up to some foolishness—especially after an evening at the River Song tavern. Where there was mischief, Brom was involved—-be it cockfights, racing, or ridiculous pranks like upending an outhouse or stringing wire to knock a rider from his horse. I would be marrying a child.
Just then the shadowy object of alarm put itself in motion, and with a scramble and a bound stood at once in the middle of the road. Though the night was dark and dismal, yet the form of the unknown might now in some degree be ascertained. He appeared to be a horseman of large dimensions, and mounted on a black horse of powerful frame.
Within moments, I saw him—a headless outline of black within a gray cloud. As though sensing my eyes upon him, he slowed his phantom steed, circling once. The horse reared, pawing the haze. The Horseman quickly drew his sword and sliced the air.
It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet. Streaming files of wild ducks began to make their appearance high in the air; the bark of the squirrel might be heard from the groves of beech and hickory-nuts, and the pensive whistle of the quail at intervals from the neighboring stubble field.
We finally came to a halt at my favorite part of our property—-a lush knoll that overlooked the Hudson.
The autumn leaves had scattered like pirate’s gold. Ships and scows drowsed along the river. Gulls circled the winking whitecaps. The smell of pine nuts and the sighs of lapping water were an elixir for the soul. Because of its serenity, I had secretly named it Bliss.
The brook was searched, but the body of the schoolmaster was not to be discovered.
My twist: ???
Spoiler Free. Check.
Dax Varley is the author of Severed, Spellbound and Determined, and the Oracles novelettes. She lives in Richmond, Texas with her husband and a half-dozen imaginary friends. Real or imaginary, you can find her at: