Did my little Christmas story sound familiar? Perhaps a few elements that you have seen before? It is not an accident. December’s short story was inspired by 1987’s Overboard. Well, I should say partly inspired by the Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn movie. In an indirect way though.
As usual, a few weeks before another 5-Saturday month I was in a panic. Sure, it’s nice to write a story and practice writing skills. That’s the only way to learn. But the ideas for stories are no longer coming to me like they once did. The well was once again running a bit dry. What to write about in December of all months? Why did the next 5-Saturday month have to be December? FYI, that actually happens a lot. So, there I was, once again, running through ideas in my head. While thinking and trying to force inspiration I lazily watched television. As I flipped through streaming services to find something to watch, I decided on the 2018 Overboard reboot. And that’s when inspiration hit me.
But that was only part of the inspiration. From somewhere deep inside the recesses of my brain I recalled reading a story when I was in school. A story that I only remembered one little thing about. That one little plot nugget that somehow surfaced in my brain combined with the inspiration I received while watching the Overboard reboot.
Let me tell you about that story I read so many years ago because it took some detective work to track it down.
My mom had purchased a set of Reader’s Digest Best Loved Books for Young Readers. Each book contains an abridged version of about 4 classic stories. While I didn’t make my way through the whole set, I did read quite a few of those stories.
One of the stories was about a man who returned to his wife and his life after being gone for many years. While he was away, he had met his doppelgänger. When he returned, his friends and family came to believe it was actually his doppelgänger that had returned, not him. He was a changed man for the better. All through the book we are led to believe the same as his friends and family. That the man was not, in fact, who he said he was. Spoiler alert: it turns out he was telling the truth. He was who he said he was.
Now, I knew I was going to write this post after the month was over and I would need more detail to share. But that synopsis was really the only thing I could remember about the story.
The first place I looked was at the set of books. However, my mom had divided the set up and given us kids each a few of the books. As luck would have it, my personal collection did not have the story I was looking for.
I remembered it was called something like The Great Imposter. The next step was obviously to consult my friend Google. In this case, Google let me down. No book or story popped with that name. Only a movie based on a true story but I knew that wasn’t it.
My next step was to look at alternatives. I typed in The Imposter. Imposter. Still nope. And nada.
I then typed Reader’s Digest Best Loved Books for Young Readers. This showed some pictures of books people are selling. Books that looked just like mine. I zoomed into the photos and I could tell that volume 5 was probably the winner. But I couldn’t quite make out the title.
Another google search specifically looking at volume 5.
The Great Impersonation by E. Phillips Oppenheim. It was written in 1920 and takes place right before World War I. All things I had totally forgotten about. In fact, as I read the synopsis, I wasn’t sure I had ever read that book before. None of it sounded familiar. Except that last little spoiler alert. This indeed was the correct story.
On a side note, I downloaded the book and I’m reading it again. Seriously, it is like the first time. Except, you know, I know the major plot point at the end.
So, I had a story to write. The trouble was getting it to squeeze into 5 measly chapters. It was a little bit too robust to fit but I did my best to cram it in the space provided. There was a bit more telling in chapter four than I would have preferred but that is the point of all this. To practice.
While the story is not plausible (but in my defense, neither is either version of Overboard) hopefully it proved to be a decent story about redemption, forgiveness, and having a change of heart. All themes very much Christmas oriented.
Thank you for reading. The next 5 chapter story will be coming in April. But don’t ask me what it will be about. At least, not until the end of March.