A continuator, in literature, is a writer who creates a new work based on someone else's prior text, such as a novel or novel fragment. The new work may complete the older work (as with the numerous continuations of Jane Austen's unfinished novel Sanditon), or may try to serve as a sequel or prequel to the older work (such as Alexandra Ripley's Scarlett, an authorized continuation of Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind). This phenomenon differs from those authors who, because they share a common culture, use characters or themes from a common cultural stock.
The development of European classical literature out of the common stock of oral tradition proved conducive to reworkings, revisions, and satires. Numerous writers of Greece's golden age revived and reworked stories of the Trojan War and Greek mythology, although they were not strictly continuators as, for the most part, they did not invent or even extrapolate much from the received stories, choosing to alter the tone and treatment rather than the stories.
Latin literature, on the other hand, may be regarded as systematic continuators of Greek models. The pinnacle of Augustan literature, the Aeneid, is essentially a continuation of the Iliad: not only in that it follows a minor character from his imagined origins in Troy to his founding of Rome, but in that it continues a historical ethos. This move, by connecting the Roman empire both culturally and pseudo-historically to the Homeric myth, is commonly viewed as a move by Virgil to legitimize the Roman empire. For instance, the epic opens with a summary of the progress of Aeneas and his progeny (in John Dryden's translation):
Arms, and the man I sing, who, forc'd by fate,
And haughty Juno's unrelenting hate,
Expel'd and exil'd, left the Trojan shore.
Long labors, both by sea and land, he bore,
And in the doubtful war, before he won
The Latian realm, and built the destin'd town;
His banish'd gods restor'd to rites divine,
And settled sure succession in his line,
From whence the race of Alban fathers come,
And the long glories of majestic Rome.
W. A. Camps expresses this common analysis of Virgil when he writes, "There is more than one reminder in the poem that its hero Aeneas is ancestor of Octavian through the supposed descent of the Julii [i.e., Octavian's family] through Aeneas' son Julius."
Like their medieval predecessors, Renaissance authors drew inspiration from earlier writers. More significantly, the spread of printing, slow increase in literacy, and the development of capitalism conspired to shape a modern concept of text and authorship. In this context, one sees "continuators" in the modern sense: authors either inspired or hired to complete or continue a predecessor's concept. This habit was most noticeable in the most commercialized spheres of literature. Elizabethan drama, for example, is full of examples. As an instance of completion, Francis Godolphin Waldron completed The Sad Shepherd, a late unfinished play by Ben Jonson. As an instance of sequel-writing, John Fletcher's The Tamer Tamed continues and lampoons Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Controversial literature was amenable to such continuations, as evidenced most especially by the Martin Marprelate affair; Philip Sidney's Arcadia was continued by Anna Weamys.