If you sit down to write fiction, and even those people who don’t sit down to write fiction sometimes do, the goal of every good writer is to try to pull something out of the hat other than a rabbit. If you want to relate a story about a little girl dressed in red who is going to her grandmother’s house you might want to reconsider the wolf. Well, you can’t just slide a hippopotamus into the wolf’s clothing or have Little Red packing a plasma rifle in the forty watt range, but then again, maybe you can do just that. Honestly, you have to unless you want to tell the same old story that has been told before. That’s what a good writer tries to avoid, I think. If you don’t have anything new to bring to the page why bother, right?
Think of the possibilities if you took a classic tale, let’s say Gilligan’s Island, and had the setting in 2011. The captain and Gilligan would be drug runners who were fronting a cruise to hide their smuggling activities, Mr. and Mrs. Howell would be banking investors who got rich of government bailouts, toss in Lindsey Lohan as Ginger, have a bi-racial farmer’s daughter from California playing Mary Anne, and have a small and quiet guy from India playing the professor. You’d have to explain why none of the hand held devices worked, why the GPS system was not responding, and you’d have to have some sort of LOST reason for no one finding the castaways, who would be having withdrawal from email and Farmville. The Professor would be reinventing the world from washed up debris, Ginger would find the stash of pot and get stoned, and Mr. Howell would try to buy off Mary Anne so she wouldn’t tell anyone she saw the photos on his cell. Gilligan and the Captain, meanwhile, would try to figure out a way to get the hell off the island before their drug connection began to think it was a rip off. Gilligan, who begins sharing pot with Ginger, sabotages all efforts to leave so he can have the pot and Lindsey to himself.
What if you brought back “I dream of Genie” with the Major being a lesbian and Genie having a serious case of the hots for her. You could cast Kimberley Joseph as the Major and as the Genie we could have Ariana Richards. In a don’t ask don’t tell world, Major Nelson has to explain that Genie is actually her niece, who happens to be a tattoo artist. To make it more interesting, Genie’s tattoos, and she has a lot of them, speak as they will when uncovered. The tattoo of the Mona Lisa head on her breast makes for some interesting conversation.
All of this sounds insane but think of how it sounded when the first of these shows was written, and all of them were written by someone. The idea of a nearly naked Barbara Eden living in a bottle sounds whacked but it ran for quite some time. Most of the shows or stories you really like sound weird when you write the plot out in a few sentences, but look at how odd The Hobbit sounds.
But you might just start at square one, and write your own world where everyone has an invisible Gnu standing at the foot of their bed at night, just some people can see it. Children are told so many times it doesn’t exist they soon believe just that, the Gnu goes away forever. What sort of conversations might a Gnu and a child have, anyway? If you’re at a total loss to come up with anything then what? If you cannot rearrange something that has come before then step away from the shadows and recreate the Universe in your own image, and so let it be. You sit there in front of a computer, or with a pen in your hand, and what keeps you? You will never be anyone but you but no one who has ever written from Woolf to Tolkien to that guy who wrote Red Riding Hood as a rap song, none of those people were anyone but that person with the pen, or a pencil, or a dream. They were you long before you were you, but you are who they are now, aren’t you?
Take something that has come before and morph it. Take the animal kingdom and in place of animals replace each and every creature with a plant that evolved to take its place, a billion years hence. What would it take for the Giant Oak to graze on the plains, soaking up the sun, drinking from the river, and creeping along….just how? Using its limbs and leaves as sails? Using the creeper roots for feet? What would pretty upon it? Would vines slither along the ground to dive under the grass then entangle some giant tree? Would a river of grass run across the earth, twisting and turning with the wind, leading down to the sea, where seaweed would accept it dry breather as fodder?
Or perhaps, it is your lot in life to write that which is true, and simple, and real to each and every one of us. Maybe it is you who will speak plainly of the sky as it turns red before night, as a promise of fire within. I cannot tell you what you must write, only that if you must write, you should no matter what it is.
I scare people. I handle snakes. I pick up strays. And I write about Demons. People tell me Demons are real, and that it is fire I play with here, as I create a world for these creatures to rule, but they are my Demons, not anyone else’s. Those you have seen I have rejected, and went online and ordered more. They were on sale, if you buy this Demon then add this one…
You get the point, don’t you?