Everyone loves a good genre mashup. Taking two (or more) different songs and seamlessly blending them together to create an entirely new song turns old music into something fresh and exciting. The same thing goes for novels. If you take old concepts and mix them together, you can write something worth raving about.
I’ve always been a sucker for cool mashups or covers, whether it was something like “Blank Space/Style” by Louisa Wendorff (which combined two songs by the same artist) or “Little Wrecking Ball” by Isosine (which blended two songs from different artists and from totally different genres).
The point of a mashup is to turn old into new. This idea works really well with novels, if you know how to do it.
There are only so many plotlines
According to Christopher Booker, there are only really seven basic stories: overcoming the monster; rags to riches; the quest; voyage and return; comedy; tragedy; and rebirth. These are all plots we can recognize and apply to our favorite novels.
If we don’t find a way to retell these stories, people will get bored of reading them. So how do we keep things interesting?
Concepts you never would have thought about going together can create the most fascinating stories. The elegance of Cinderella combined with the clunky machinery of a cyborg gave birth to Cinder by Marissa Meyer, the first book in a bestselling series of sci-fi retellings of fairytales.
Try to come up with a few different opposing ideas that might somehow work to produce a new story. What if the beautiful princess is locked away in the tower for the kingdom’s own safety? Could the muscular, tattooed motorcyclist actually be a gentle giant with a soft spot for puppies?
Combine classic stories with modern ideas
One of my favorite songs from “Glee” was the “Umbrella/Singin’ in the Rain” mashup they performed early on in the show. “Singin’ in the Rain” was clearly recognizable in the song, but it had a modern twist that allowed it to blend perfectly with Rihanna’s “Umbrella.”
It completely transformed the song.
You can create the same genre mashups with novels. Pride and Prejudice is a longtime classic, but turn it into Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and it becomes a new best seller. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston is a take on Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, but the story is told by a star cheerleader.
Keeping the magic alive
As writers, our jobs are to take seemingly simplistic ideas and spin them into dazzling tales that captivate readers. When the same old stories have been told a thousand different times, we have to come up with new ways to tell them. By keeping these tips in mind, it should be a piece of cake to stay creative.
How do you find new ways to tell old stories? Let us know in the comments.
Today, your challenge is to create your own genre mashup.
First, take five minutes to brainstorm different ideas. Here are some to get you started: A fairy tale, like Cinderella or Snow White? A sci-fi world? A classic novel, like Pride and Prejudice or The Great Gatsby? Zombies? Vampires? An undersea setting? New York City in the 1980’s?
Review your list and pick two that don’t seem to fit together. Then, for ten minutes, write a story that blends those two elements, either into a plot, a setting, or a character.
When you’re finished, share your practice in the comments, if you wish. Don’t forget to give your fellow writers some love, too. Have fun!