Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Twist on the Original

The Shadow on the Tree--John Ritchie Fl-1858-1875 A couple of days ago, we were visiting our family in Alabama. The kids had gotten very restless and were about to start wreaking havoc in their grandparents’ house.

I shooed them outside and shooed myself with them because I was restless too, after having been in the car most of the day before. “Let’s play hide and seek,” I said.

My children looked at me doubtfully. “Are you going to hide too?” asked my daughter.

I said I would. Although I had a feeling I was going to regret it. I’m tall and really, how many places were there going to be to hide?

My son hid first and we finally found him in a huge magnolia tree.

Then it was my turn to hide. The best place for me to hide was behind a brick wall toward the front of the house….but everyone driving down the road would see me. Any motorists that saw children hiding would just smile and keep driving. Any motorists that saw me hiding might call the police.

Then it struck me—I’d hide where my son had hidden! And I’d misdirect the children. “Okay, I’ll go hide. But you really need to count and give me some time.”

While they were counting, I hid really close to them in the magnolia tree. It took them a good fifteen or twenty minutes to find me….long enough for me to cramp up from crouching. It worked.

It’s like this for writing, too. There are only so many storylines. Really, it’s all been done before.

But we can take old ideas or plot cliques and twist them to our purposes and make them work. We might be hiding in the same tree, but we can do our own misdirecting with a fresh setting, original voice and characters, twist ending, or even some genre blending. And what we bring to the table is something no one else has—our unique experiences.

How do you put a new twist on an old idea?