Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Magical Mash-Up

How's this for a cheery thought?


"What has been will be again,
   What has been done will be done again.
     There is nothing new under the sun."
                            Ecclesiastes 1:9

No, I'm not here to tell you any attempt at originality is doomed to fail; I'm here to offer a back door to it. Or maybe even a sewer pipe; you may have to crawl, you may have get dirty, but look at the bright side--no one's expecting you to come climbing up through the shower drain! And isn't that what originality is all about? No, no, not showers--stick with me here--but surprise. Unpredictability. Spontaneity. Originality.

If you're like me, you've probably had head-banging sessions over this word. And not the Rolling Stones kind. The literal banging-your-head-into-the-wall kind of thing. The pressure to be original in a world where there is "nothing new under the sun" can be agony--if you're trying to get through the front door. 

But if you follow me through that sewer pipe--or back door, if you have a sensitive stomach--then maybe, after you've slapped on a few band-aids, you can save yourself and the wall a lot of needless pain and step into a future positively shiny with new possibilities.

Okay, disclaimer: this isn't some kind of new idea; it's been done before, many, many times by many, many people in literature, film, television, Glee, and everyplace else. Which is exactly why I'm bringing it up now. It works.

The mash-up.

I have a deck of cards. They don't feature stoic queens and kings who look in dire need of some Pepto-Bismal; they feature genres. I have a card for steampunk, and western, and post-apocalyptic, and dystopian, and farce, and forbidden love. Sometimes, when I'm bored, I take them out, shuffle them, turn them all face down, and play Match.

The results can make me cringe, laugh, and--sometimes--gallop across the room to the computer, where I can set the magical pair down in the stone of MS Word. 


The thing is, this can work with practically anything: movie titles (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days meets Alien, anyone? Or how about The Godfather meets Toy Story? Meh...) books (God forbid, do not say Twilight meets The Hunger Games), or heck, even people, places, and times (Marie Antoinette in 1940's New York)! Okay, the mix-ups won't always work, and sometimes they just plain stink, but the potential here should be invigorating to anyone with pen, paper, and a little imagination.

I know you are all very intelligent people, so I know you can see what the point of all this is. But for those of you who just love zingy one-liners which crisply summarize everything pizzazzily (yes, it's a word--I just invented it), here you go (no promise of zinginess or pizzazz): If you want to be original without the agony of being original, try a mash-up. 

And then imagine the glorious tones of James Earl Jones (Trekkies, don't shoot me, but honestly--who else could it be?) booming across a starry night sky: Mash-ups... the final frontier... 

And off you go.

Oh, and always keep in mind: There are some mash-ups which should really never, ever, ever be let out to roam free and terrorize the general populace:





3 comments:

  1. Hi Jessica!

    I found you on QueryTracker through some mutually queried agents - and I LOVE your style! Have followed your blog, intend to keep up with it. PERFECTLY PIA sounds fascinating and fresh - best wishes for tons of industry interest!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would say you have a fabulous handle on orginality already, so thanks for sharing your mash up trick. I'll have to try it sometimes as a writing exercise and see how it goes.

    Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm a little late to the party, but I love yout image of Star Trek meets Dr. Who! Wow, it's just so . . . cheesy. Like someone at SyFy had a bad day.

    Thanks for sharing your idea with the cards. Might be an excellent path to resolving writer's block as well.

    ReplyDelete