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

A Fragile New World

Large Soap bubbleWith engines humming at warp speed and maximum forward thrust, the alien creature piloting the craft approached the strange planet. Cautiously the creature circled several times before hovering motionless above one section of the orb. He scrutinized the surface of this new world that recently popped up on his screen before making his decision to land.

The blue streaks on its surface likely indicated the presence of water — hopefully similar to the H2O of his home planet. And the green would normally indicate large areas of vegetation, perhaps even forests. Was there life on this planet? Was it hostile or friendly? Things to be considered before any attempt to explore.

And what were those pink swirls all about? Unusually coloured foliage, like the orange of autumn leaves on Earth? Poisonous gasses? Had some noxious substance under the surface leached into the atmosphere? Was this new world another like Planet Earth, where the inhabitants routinely produced weird colours of clouds over its surface?

Actually, the planet seemed to have no atmosphere — unless its air was crystal clear. Te creature saw no sign of habitation to alarm him. Time to touch down and explore the place. Wings extended, landing gear lowered, he brought his craft down for a graceful landing.

The moment the weight of his craft came to rest on the surface, which seemed to be composed of some unique substance, there was this huge

Pop bubble + word

The force of the explosion sent the tiny craft tumbling back into space. It took serious effort on the creature’s part to right his craft and steer it into a level course again. Having more than satisfied his curiosity — and there being nothing left of the strange planet to explore — the creature continued his journey into space.

He made this note in his mental logbook:
Important data for future reference: mosquitoes unable to land on soap bubbles.
😉

I can’t resist squeezing in a haiku to complete my tale:

silver-blue flash
and a planet appears
child’s play

Soap planet

Writing prompts that inspired my tale:

Fandango’s one-word challenge: SUBSTANCE
Ragtag daily prompt word: BLUE
Word of the Day Photo challenge: CLOSE UP

Finish the Story: Part 2

Another Wordsmith has handed me the challenge of writing Part 2 of the story she’s started. Read Part 1 HERE. So I took up my pen this morning and will post both parts.

With this disclaimer:
I like a writing challenge and accepted for that reason, but in truth I know little about this subject. Most of what I know about actress-wannabes comes from the song, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose? This song is sung from the perspective of a woman who has come to her senses and is heading home, leaving the broken dreams of Hollywood behind.

I’m tagging fellow blogger & fiction writer, Linda, to write Part Three of this possibly sad or possibly route-to-fame tale.

Here are the RULES —

  1. Copy the story below as it appears when you receive it (and the rules please)
  2. Add somehow to the story in which ever style and length you choose
  3. Tag only 1 person
  4. If you choose to not participate or finish the story, please comment/tag this post so that I know.

And here’s the STORY —

Casey Ann wanted to be an actress from the first time she saw Elizabeth Taylor, Vivian Leigh, and Greta Garbo on the big screen. Every Saturday was spent at the kiddie show with Rin Tin Tin and the Lone Ranger, then she would hide in a little closet in the back of the theater until the adult shows began.

Her parents never asked where she was for hours on end. Their motto was, “Children were better when they were invisible.” So, she learned how to be invisible. She secretly put on plays in the woods behind her house and practiced facial expressions in the mirror as often as she could.

The day she turned eighteen, she bought a one-way ticket to Hollywood. As soon as she stepped off the Trailways…

PART TWO:
…she looked around the bustling terminal and wondered, “What do I go now?” Followed by, “What am I doing here, anyway?” And, “Where will I live?” The questions stunned her for a moment.

She took a deep breath and headed for the café she saw across the street. She still had enough money for a few lunches and one night in a cheap motel room, but she needed to see about getting a job. Everything would fall into place as soon as she signed a contract.

Casey slid onto a stool at the counter and a waitress about her mother’s age came to take her order. She asked for a pop for starters. When the waitress brought her drink, Casey asked, “How do I get to the MGM studio from here?”

The waitress rolled her eyes and nudged another waitress rushing by. “Hey, Jean. Another one.” She turned back to Casey. “I hope you’ve bought a return ticket, dear. This is a tough place to get started. Every day dozens of sweet young things get off those buses, dreaming of fame and fortune. The sharks soon chew them up, spit them out and leave them bleeding.”

Casey gasped. Jean, passing again, saw how shocked Casey looked and stopped. “I was one of them, too,” she told the young girl. But I’ve survived.” She winked, then grabbed several bottles of pop from the cooler.

Casey looked around the busy restaurant, the waitresses run off their feet. Survival, yes, but… she wanted so much more from life than this. Jean leaned toward her and whispered, “I still haven’t lost my dream. Listen, why don’t you…

 

Linda has written Part Three here.

A Fellow Who Brightened His Corner

Back in the 1960s a man named Jimmy Hamilton was going about his small region of Scotland doing good. He was travelling miles every week to make his rounds of nine hospitals, spreading sunshine. He’d go through the wards, taking a few minutes to stop and chat at the bedsides of those who seemed to need a visit. And folks blessed him for it.

He began this interesting “hobby” after he, as a young man, had to spend some time in a local hospital himself. While there he realized what a lonely place a hospital can be, especially for those with no close kin to pop in and see them, and he resolved to do something to what he could to cheer up a few of these folks. After he was discharged he began coming back as a visitor.

Thus his little mission started in a small way, but soon grew as he visited various hospitals in Motherwell, his own home. Jimmy was a ray of hope: he’d sit by a patient’s bed; show a kind interest in the folks; share little stories to make them smile again. His visits were so effective that surgeons would send for him to visit a depressed patient.

When he first began he made use of the local buses. However, as years went on he expanded his efforts to other hospitals farther and farther away. The many grateful recipients and their families clubbed together to help him with this; they bought him a special car so he could go even farther.

Perhaps Jimmy had a special inroad with folks who feel there’s no hope, for he himself was seriously handicapped. As a boy of three he lost both his legs in a railway accident. When he talked to other patients folks about courage and healing, they knew he’d been there, done that himself. When in despair they felt their useful days were past, Jimmy’s example of finding a small corner and filling it cheerfully was a quiet rebuttal.

Someone may say, “It seems my life has no purpose.” Rest assured, there’s a little task for each of us, something useful we can do for others that will boomerang and cheer us up, too.

Where there’s a will there’s a way. Jimmy has proved it.
.
Story taken from an account in THE FRIENDSHIP BOOK of Francis Gay, 1969 Edition

From the Heart Award

Blogger Kristian Fogarty bestowed this award on me. apparently there are NO requirements, but I’d like to pass it on, so will take this opportunity to mention some other bloggers I find interesting and you might, too.

WHAT IS IT?

This award goes to bloggers who primarily focus on personal writing. These posts are often from the writer to the world at large, or from the writer to the writer themselves and they just allow us access to their mind.

RULES:

There are no rules, no questions, no participation requirements for this award. It is given from bloggers to other bloggers. It was designed by the Haunted Wordsmith and is given to other bloggers as a gesture of thanks and appreciation for their work.

I won’t do this all in one session — I know quite a few bloggers who write really interesting posts — but will start with a few.

Alistair at dralimanonlife, tells us a bit more about himself every weekend, doing Cee’s Share Your World Writing challenge. He also likes doing Flash Fiction with a neat little twist at the end. Here’s one of his stories.

Keith at keithsramblings.net is another devotee of flash fiction with a bit of humor woven in, like this tale of a poor Cassidy missing his leg.

Rochelle Wisoff-Fields at rochellewisoff.com is the lady who hosts Friday Fictioneers and sends out the photos for writers to concoct stories about. she herself is a history buff. She likes presenting neat biographical background info about well-known people.

By now this post is full of links and my coffee’s getting cold, so I’d better quit. Wishing you all a great weekend.

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.”