Mashed Up Musings

Rambling Thoughts on Genre Mashups

Puzzling.jpgYesterday over at The Write Practice, the subject was genre mashups, something I’d never hear of before — at least not by that name. The concept of taking a story and retelling it in another genre is familiar. For example, telling the story of Cinderella as a news report.

In this Write Practice post “The Magic Violinist” is suggesting mixing genres like fairy tale + sci-fi, romance + thriller, classic + contemporary. Oliver Twist meets his Mafia Godfather. That type of thing.

I read a book recently where one of the main characters is an author and in her novel Jane Austen is captured by space aliens. The title of the book will give a clue as to how successful she was at getting it launched. The Rejected Writers Book Club (Southlea Bay) by Suzanne Kelman is a funny, though none-too-believable, tale with a mixture of zany and normal characters. I found it delightful.

Mixing genres is an intriguing thought. Even in straight fiction, there are some tales I think would benefit from a dash of something else thrown in. For example, Wuthering Heights — one book I disliked extremely. I read the thing all the way through, hoping poor Heathcliff would get a grip, but there was just no improvement.

It’s billed as a romance — but I saw no actual love anywhere in its pages. Jealousy, greed, snobbery, obsession, fury, cruelty, revenge, yes. Love, no. I think Healthcliff might have benefited immensely by a visit from those three Spirits of Christmas who brought Ebenezer Scrooge to his senses in A Christmas Carol.

I think a lot of mashups of the old classics have already been done a zillion times. There are many contemporary, sci-fi, fantasy, and western versions of Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Pride + Prejudice, Romeo & Juliet, and Hamlet floating around.

Just for the fun of it, here are a few mashups I came up with:

Lord Peter Wimsey is sent to investigate the assassination of the King of Scotland and the murder of Banquo. He deduces from various clues that MacBeth is the guilty party…
or
Miss Marple, a good friend of Banquo’s widow, does some snooping and uncovers Lady Macbeth’s duplicity in the assassination of the king.

The Three Musketeers could be three university roommates who join together to prove their favorite professor, accused of being a spy, is innocent.

I’ve never read The Great Gatsby, and the synopsis doesn’t at all inspire me to start. However, one of the three male characters could meet up with the three spirits of Christmas and come to see the error of his ways, improving the sad outcome of that story.

On the humorous side, Bertie Wooster could meet up with Ebenezer Scrooge’s three Christmas ghosts and resolve to atone for his former self-indulgent lifestyle. He tries in his inept way to donate time + talent to some worthy cause, but Jeeves has to sort things out when they go awry.

Notes:

Cinderella, an old fairy tale, was recorded by French writer Charles Perrault
Oliver Twist is a classic novel by Charles Dickens
The Little Mermaid was a Hans Christian Anderson tale
Wuthering Heights was Emily Bronte’s only novel
Ebeneezer Scrooge is Charles Dicken’s notorious curmudgeon and tightwad
Pride & Prejudice was penned by Jane Austen
Romeo + Juliet, Hamlet and MacBeth were written by William Shakespeare
Lord Peter Wimsey was Dorothy Sayers’ famous detective
Miss Marple was Agatha Christie’s very successful sleuth
The Three Musketeers was written by Alexandre Dumas
The Great Gatsby was an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel
Bertie Wooster + his valet, Jeeves, were created by P. G. Wodehouse

Parker’s Book Report

Parker drummed on the notepad with the tip of his pen. Mr Oswald told them he wanted to see “an honest book review mentioning at least three positive points.”

“Guess I can say it’s well written — as far as the actual writing goes.” Parker mumbled, and scribbled the words on his pad. The story flowed naturally, no glaring faults, no plot holes. Now, what else?

He tapped the book with his pen and wondered if “Nice colors on the front cover” would pass for one positive point. He sat up in his chair and stretched his arms above him. The screen on his cell phone showed 10:00 and this crummy book report was due for Lit class in twelve hours. On teacher’s desk, neatly typed, no spelling errors.

Was it interesting? Maybe — in a stretch. Okay, the story was interesting enough to keep a reader hooked. Worthwhile reading? Two thumbs down. What were people supposed to get out of reading this garbage, anyway? The impression that cops were brutal, corrupt — murderers even? Great take-away.

Parker’s Dad was a cop. His older brother was in police college. Every day cops like his dad put their lives on the line to keep the peace, catch the bad guys and lock them up. To try and prevent gang wars and pick up the pieces after. His dad had a couple of serious scars from knife-wielding toughs. He knew that many a night when some big operation was afoot Mom walked the floor until she heard the garage door open and knew Dad was home.

He read the author’s name on the cover and scowled. If someone breaks into this guy’s house, who’s he going to call for help? If some scammer empties his bank account, or some drunk driver plows into him on the way home from work, who’s supposed to deal with it? But he makes big bucks writing this story where the main character’s a violent ex-cop, police joke about beating up suspects in detention, and in the end the murderer turns out to be a greedy cop trying to get his hands on the bankroll he thinks the victim stole.

Parker felt like snapping his pen in half. Instead, he set it down and wandered to the kitchen, where he pulled a can of pop out of the fridge.

With all the books out there, why did Mr Oswald assign this one? He’d sounded so pumped about it. “Great example of a flawed hero,” he’d told them. “You gotta like this guy, warts and all.”

Oh, no, you didn’t. Did Oswald think they needed to get more of an attitude toward cops than most kids have now? Or maybe it was on the curriculum and Oswald was just getting paid to rave about it.

His dad walked into the kitchen right then and threw an arm over his shoulder. “Up late, buddy?”

“Got a book report to write for tomorrow’s Lit class. Can’t get into it.” He pulled the tab off his pop can and took a drink.

“Like the book? Was it worth reading?”

Parker shrugged and turned his free thumb down. “A book about a bad ex-cop. Had to retire because he couldn’t control his temper. Fantasizes about smashing peoples’ faces when they make him mad. You know what they say nowadays. ‘We need to see heroes with faults’ and all that.”

His father grimaced. “Well, I’ll admit it’s tempting to give some petty crooks with an attitude one good punch. You catch them robbing a store and they start wailing that a criminal record will mess up their life. It’ll be all your fault if they can’t get a job now.” He rolled his eyes. “Like, couldn’t you figure this out before you got caught?”

Then he gave Parker a light slap on the back. “But, like we say to the perps we haul in, ‘Why don’t you just tell the truth.’ The good Lord didn’t make you to be a herd animal. Be respectful, point out the positives where you can, but if you think the book is trash, say so. And say why.”

“Even if I get, like 20%, for this review because I don’t ‘get’ the hero?”

“Even if you get 20%. But get it done by the deadline. That you can do.”

Parker grinned and headed back to his room. Okay. Here goes. He picked up his pen to scribble a few ideas — and suddenly his words were flowing. He nodded in satisfaction. I’m gonna make this!

.
Fandango’s one-word challenge: DEADLINE
This prompt has led me into quite a tale today! I won’t tell you which book Parker was writing a  review on. As you can probably tell, I can’t recommend reading it. 😉

Best If Cut

Word of the Day prompt for today: SUCCINCT
Merriam-Webster says: marked by compact precise expression without wasted words

Like A Jewel, Best If Cut

Publisher John Murray was known as a man with a sense of humour. He read through a manuscript from an aspiring author one day and wrote this encouraging note of critique: “Sir, I have read your manuscript and it is like a precious jewel. And like a precious jewel, it will sparkle the more if cut.”

Flash Fiction Alters You

Two years ago I joined Friday Fictioneers, a group hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. The goal is to write a hundred-word story in response to the photo prompt she sends around every Wednesday. One hundred words means barest bones. Every superfluous word goes. Every phrase that can possibly be omitted is deleted.

TMI

This paragraph comes from a cozy mystery I started reading and abandoned. Remember that a mystery, by definition, is built on tension. A writer has to keep the action moving, the readers on edge. All the unnecessary description of the room, the carpet, the furniture, slows this particular scene down to a crawl:

My mind registered a familiar ring tone and I reached for my navy faux-leather handbag, the one I’d bought with the gift certificate Mom gave me for the trendy new fashion store that just opened up three months ago at a nearby mall. I rummaged around, feeling my wallet, a few tissues, and several small spiral notebooks I carried for jotting down bits of poetry before I pulled out my shiny pink cell phone, now steadily tinkling out the tune to “Fleur Elise,” my favorite of all the tone options on this phone, hit the tiny green Talk button and said “Hello.”

Sum total: a female answers her phone.
(Her Mom is calling to ask if she’s seen her sister.)

Succinct version:
I grabbed my ringing phone from my purse. “Hello.”
Mom’s voice sounded worried. “Sue, I can’t reach Patty. Have you seen her lately?”

Word count: 23
I could have to cut out the purse, though the purse tells readers it’s a cell phone and she isn’t at home. This type of editing is terrific practice for “writing tight,” which is the kind of writing that sells these days.

Mark Twain’s succinct writing advice:
“When you see an adjective, kill it.”

Mini-Review for Mini-Tales

Beginnings and Endings: a Selection of Short Stories

© 2017 by Jane Suen

This book contains four short tales, nothing profound or suspenseful; just everyday scenes in the lives of several people — and one growing thing. A quick read, interesting and well edited. I noticed several wordings that made me wonder if the writer’s first language is English, but over all it’s very well done. Makes you want to read the longer background story or the “what happens next?”

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Going through my Kobo e-reader this afternoon, taking a look at the books I’ve downloaded. A number of these are coming from new authors, giving away their books in the hopes the recipients would write a review. So I’d best do my part. 🙂

Well Written, Intriguing Characters, A Dash of Zany — and FREE

BOOK REVIEW:
CRANBERRY BLUFF,
A Tale of Scones and Scoundrels

© 2014 by Deborah Garner
Cranberry Cove Press

Molly Elliott lived a comfortable life and for three years had a stable career in Tallahassee, FL, until one day someone took advantage of her regular routine. She was making the company deposit at the bank when it was robbed. The female thief was dressed about like Molly, hair styled the same, and standing at the next wicket when she pulled a gun on the teller. This led to some question as to which woman was actually the robber.

The police, after viewing the bank’s video tapes, were satisfied Molly wasn’t involved. Someone else believed she’d somehow been involved and gotten away with the loot. Molly started getting notes like, “We know you have it and we’re going to find it.” The police called the notes “just a prank” but when Molly came home one day and found her house ransacked she knew this was deadly serious. It was impossible to feel safe; she started to fear everyone, every situation.

Then her Aunt in Northern California passed away and left Molly her home, currently operating as Cranberry Cottage, an eight-room Bed & Breakfast. Molly jumped at the chance, left her life in FL behind, and found respite from the constant fear in her new location.

The story opens on a Sept day where Molly, comfortably settled into the role of innkeeper, prepares to welcome the five guests who’ve booked rooms at Cranberry Cottage. A honeymooning couple, a sixty-something woman who loves to shop, a strange little salesman who doesn’t mingle, and a very handsome, sociable fellow who shows up very late that first night. Later identifies himself as a novelist.

Little does Molly know that her guests are not the people they present themselves as — and at least one of them is convinced Molly still has the bank heist stashed away somewhere on the property. This guest wants to search and find that money. As the story unfolds we see the other guests have their own agendas and reasons for being at Cranberry Bluff.

I seldom give a book five stars, but this one I did. The story is well written and believable, the characters well developed, if a tad off-beat. As we get to know them better the tale gets zany, not totally realistic but definitely believable and interesting. The first time I read the book I couldn’t put it down. When I received notice from Book Bub that it’s free right now through both Amazon and Kobo, I decided to do a review and tell you about it. So I read it again yesterday and found it just as entertaining the second time around.

A romance begins in this book, but the two involved like each other and help each other. No violence, no bad language, no screaming matches. Just a nice light read.

Added Bonus:
A number of Cranberry recipes at the back of the book.

Click here for Amazon
Click here for Kobo

 

Book Review: The Nose Knows

A Bugle Boy Crime Caper (Duane & Bugle Boy Book 1)

by DeForest Day

Bugle Boy, a clever bloodhound pup, was put through the TSA Canine Training Center in San Antonio, TX, and graduated at the top of his class. He became part of the TSA airport security team, able to sniff out a many different narcotic and explosive substances on a baggage carousel.

However, Bugle Boy was not trained to distinguish between average citizens and politicians. So when he saw a man trying to slip past the security screening, Bugle Boy howled about it. And further, he notified his handler about an illegal drug he was sniffing in the man’s pants’ pocket. The fellow turned out to be a Republican congressman; he was outraged and demanded the handler be fired and the dog euthanized.

A higher-ranking security officer was called to deal with the complaint. Alas for the congressman, the officer was not only a stickler for the law, but a Democrat to boot. When he insisted on a strip search, the Republican congressman pulled a baggie of marijuana from his pocket and tossed it at him.

This was apparently legal, but not apt to be well tolerated should this revelation come to the ears of his rather conservative Idaho voters. Charges and counter-charges were quietly dropped. The politician did insist the hound be fired, but Bugle Boy was officially a Federal Civil Service employee and you can’t fire a civil servant without a public hearing — which was apt to adversely affect the senator’s popularity at the polls. So Bugle Boy found himself part of a package deal — a new SUV being the other part — shipped off to a tiny Pennsylvania town with a three-person police force.

Here he was partnered with Duane, a local cop who perhaps wasn’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but did well at catching speeders. Bugle Boy’s bored after the excitement of a busy airport but when they get called to a shooting of sorts he finally gets his chance to sniff out some local excitement. Which gives the police chief some anxious moments in his campaign for re-election.

I enjoyed this story, a rather short one as novels go — Amazon says 42 pages. I liked the small-town setting and gentle spoof on local characters, politics and politicians. It was never uproariously funny, more like chuckles all through. The language is mild for the most part; there are a few expletives, off-color jokes and insinuations.

I got this e-book for free with the idea that I should write an honest review. If you’re interested in reading it, right now this first-in-the-series book is free on both Amazon and Kobo.

This book review is my response to the Ragtag Daily Prompt word: SPOOF

Easy on the Paint, Eh

Pausing to describe the engine in detail, she lost the train of thought.

Fandango’s one word challenge:  CURTAIL

I like short, easy-to-work-with words! 🙂 My response for this word is an excerpt from Stephen Leacock’s book:
HOW TO WRITE
©1944
Published by The Bodley Head Ltd

Taken from Chapter 5: The Art of Narration:

The description of scenes and of persons, of wind and weather, becomes an essential part of the art of narration. It gives the background of the stage where fiction walks. The cultivation of the art of description becomes a very necessary part of training in writing.
However…remember that description — outside of a summer resort folder or a public list of persons wanted — is not the main purpose of fiction. It ought…never be allowed to overdo its part…to block the current of the narrative and bring it to a full stop, just as the reader’s interest and excitement is being carried forward with a rush.

~~~~~

My husband’s mom used to say, quoting her dad about constructing furniture:
“A few nails should be all you need to hold the thing together. And if a few nails don’t hold it, many nails won’t hold it, either.”