[Write On Wednesday] Penny for the Guy?

This month’s theme at StoryADay is the idea of alternative stories: writing new stories in other people’s universes. This can mean fan fiction or it can mean taking folk tales, history, or myth and writing in that. Perhaps you and a writing buddy swap universes for a day and you write about their characters for a change.

Stay tuned each Wednesday this month for more ways to play in other people’s sandboxes.

Penny for the Guy

The Prompt

Yesterday, people in the UK celebrated Guy Fawkes’ Day, a family friendly festival celebrating the gruesome end of a would-be revolutionary. Write a story inspired by that of Guy Fawkes


  • In case you don’t know the story, in 1605 religious turmoil roiled Great Britain. The royal house had spent the past 50 years swinging from Catholic to Protestant to Catholic and back to Protestant, with executions and terror following every shift. 
  • The young king of Scotland, James (who had been taken from his Catholic mother, Mary Queen of Scots as a boy and raised as a protestant heir by his cousin Elizabeth I of England) had just ascended the English throne. Fawkes and his Catholic allies plotted to end his rule by blowing up Westminster  with James inside. Fawkes stockpiled gunpowder under the palace and…got caught and was executed.
  • Now, every year on Nov 5, Brits have huge bonfires and burn an effigy (known as ‘the guy’) and have a huge fireworks party. Its a lot of fun and best not to think too hard about the holiday’s origin (especially if you’re Catholic or a fan of non-repressive, non-murderous governments!)
  • You could tell a historical fiction story about Guy and his fellow plotters. But that’s not the only way to take his story and use it for yourself.
  • You could update the idea of someone plotting against a government.
  • You could make it more generally about someone plotting any kind of revenge against anyone (their boss, a nasty teacher, their neigbour) and getting caught.
  • You could take the story and set it in a futuristic of fantasy world, or on a different planet (wherever there are people there are politics!)
  • You could write the story of subsidiary characters in this plot. Are the plotters married? What are their spouses doing on the day they get caught?
  • You could give your fictional world an even like The Gunpowder Plot and leap 500 years forward in history and set your story on the night of the commemoration. (It doesn’t have to be fireworks and bonfires. How would your fictional society commemorate the events?) For example, when I was growing up there was a tradition of making a ‘guy’ (like a scarecrow from old clothes and crumpled up newspaper) and putting him in a garden barrow, rolling him around the streets and asking people to donate ‘a penny for the guy’ to reward your efforts (or possibly fund the fireworks? Never been sure…). It was an exciting, fun time for the kids, but kind of gruesome and  a bit problematic when you think about it! (as an example for the Americans in the audience, imaging kids doing that today with effigies of Robert E. Lee…..see?) Your story could be simply the story of the tradition or a reflection on how little we think about the origins of some our actions. Go as shallow or as deep as you like.

If you share you story somewhere (and here’s why you might not want to) post a link here so we can come and read it.

Leave a comment to let us know what you wrote about today, and how it went!

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