Short and Sweet Advice for Writers – Mix and Match for New Story Ideas

Found this gem and since I’m working with remixes this semester, I figured it’d be a helpful companion along the way! 🙂

Live to Write - Write to Live

mix it upNothing is new. At least, that’s what they say. The stories we tell today are the same stories that have been told all over the world and throughout the ages. Our job as writers is less about finding a new and unique story than it is about finding a new and unique way to tell an old story:

  • Boy Meets Girl
  • Hero Slays the Monster
  • Peasant Becomes Royalty
  • Adventurer Completes the Quest
  • Sleuth Solves the Mystery
  • And so on …

What can you do to make an old story new? How do you transform a predictable tale into something that’s exciting both to the reader and to you, the writer?

Mix it up.

If you’re stuck for a new story idea, try mining the “old,” tried and true stories and then adding a twist. For instance:

  • Put an old story or character in a new setting.
    • Take classic fairytale characters…

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To Remix or Not to Remix

Long story short? For this class, I have no problem remixing. For personal use, it’s also find. For the public, I’m not sure. (For more information or to find out why Isabelle holds these views, please scroll down. If you do not care, then don’t scroll.)

To be completely honest, I am not exactly sure what and how I feel about remixing. I think that there is a line between acceptable and then just plain old copying. We were made in the image of God and obviously that means that we are works of God–and made after Him. So surely to a certain extent of “remixing” isn’t wrong at all.

He created us with creativity, and He also put us in communion with each other. He said it was “not good for man to live alone” and so he created woman. But I think that this can also apply to how we are communal beings and we are not designed to live on desert islands by ourselves. We interact with each other. We brainstorm together. We build off of each other. In unofficial ways this seems acceptable. By unofficial I mean planning projects in office settings…one person starts something, another adds, someone subtracts, the next turns it down a different road, and then somehow the end project is achieved. It probably looks a lot different than when it started, but that’s alright.

In a way, remix can be like this. If Pollack really is inspired by Van Gogh, then let him be Van Gogh’s remixer. Pollack’s work is more abstract than Van Gogh’s work is. It’s the “post-modern” recreation of Van Gogh. It’s different and it appeals to a different audience (potentially) and it also reflects the different cultural meaning and definition of art. In the screen studies class I’m taking this semester, we’ve been talking recently about how film theorists felt they needed to re-define what art was with the introduction of film. They wanted to bend the definition to account for cinema. In like manner, Pollack’s art is a bending and a new take on Van Gogh’s work. It’s a re-mix, but it’s different enough to be…umm…different.

Some remixes, though, aren’t like that. They’re not different enough. A lot of cover songs are like this, I’ve noticed. And while this doesn’t infuriate me, it does disappoint me. I would like to see songwriters writing music that was more “original.” And let’s be honest. Everyone says that Shakespeare was a great and famous author/playwright. Right? But if you really study his plays, they are so full of allusions to Greco-Roman myths that it’s ridiculous. It’s actually quite mind-blowing. That man was kind of brilliant in his ability to combine so many different things together like that. Personal opinion aside, Shakespeare was a remixer and he’s considered great. Be like Shakespeare. Remix. And be great. Just please, don’t make something that’s worthy of the “#twinning”caption. That’s cute for clothes and everything, but songs need something different.

For my own personal use of the ethics of remixing? I’m not entirely sure. Based off of what I’ve said above, it seems like I would be fine with remixing things. For this particular class, I have no issue remixing materials. It’s for educational purposes and I’m not doing anything for profit.

Profit. There’s an interesting twist to the story. I think that if I were choosing to make a profit off of other people’s work, I would really stop and think about what I was doing. I might feel guilty using their work. That’d almost feel like plagiarizing. Even in a group project or discussion, if I use material that we’ve worked on as a group, I feel like I need to give the whole group credit. I feel bad just saying, “Oh, and I thought of this brilliant idea all by myself.” So if I was going to cover a song, or remix it, I am not sure if I would. Obviously I would be affected by the song, but I would try to be original. And I’ve noticed while making the remixes for this class that I’m struggling to use other people’s work. I just want to make it all myself.

But back to my ethics for personally making remixes. I have done some “copying” of “artwork.” I really enjoy calligraphy (until this semester when I got too busy) and one of the things that I enjoy is copying down quotes I really liked. I love the look and feel of colored pencils, so I primarily used them, though recently it’s been acrylic paint..or a chalkboard. Anyways, sometimes I would not look up any pictures of the fonts I wanted to use, or the colors, or the formatting. I’d just design it from my mind. But other times I would hop on my trusty friend, Pinterest, and see what I could find. I never copied it down perfectly, though, because I really did want it to be my own. (This same rule applies to cooking/baking. I find a recipe and then I modify it.)

So that, my friend, is some of the thinking behind my first statement.




Reflections for Week 4–A and not A

Based off of our class discussions, it seems that there could not be an end to the author. Even the same story is usually retold with a twist in the plot. For example, the oral tradition of story-telling (and assuming the storyteller does not change the story around) will have different emphases depending on the voice inflection of the narrator. In like manner, a copy of painting will be slightly different from that of the “original” (which, ironically, is most likely based off and inspired by other works…)

To be an author, according to Silva, is something that is “new and recent” (97). Not signing your name to your work (as an author)  is to “give up a series of ingrained questions on one’s permanence, what is also known as life drive in the Freudian theory, in favor of a self-annulment of perpetuation, what Freud described as death drive” (99). When you forgo your signature on a work, you are denying socialization (99).


       When authors publishes their work, they have to realize that people will take their work and use them for their own intention. And, as we discussed in class, audience interpret work the way that they want to–and this is called intentional fallacy. Authors no longer seem to have any authority over their work. This can be both exciting and nerve-racking. Authors wonder whether the remixed work done on their original pieces will be honoring and maintain the author’s original intent, or if they parody/mock the works. However, this is a risk that authors and artists are willing to make–art is still being produced! 🙂  They know that will happen with their works.

However, I think that it is important to understand an author’s intent. In the logic class I’m enrolled in this semester, we talked today about different sorts of statements. And one of the rules that we talked about is how something cannot be both A and not A (in the same sense and in the same time)–it’s called a Self-Contradiction  and the statement becomes false. For me to interpret a work as “A” and the author’s intent was “not A” means that I have incorrectly read the intent. Now, this does not mean that I cannot enjoy my interpretation, but it does mean that it is wrong–and I need to realize that it’s wrong.

Let me take an example we talked about in class. Sometimes when I’m listening to a song (Spotify, radio…) and I don’t see the music video, my interpretation of the song can be different from the music video. Once I thought a song implied one thing, but it turned out almost the opposite was intended! It would be wrong for me to use my interpretation for the song as an illustration for something because, in the end, the song would be saying the opposite. I couldn’t say that in Keith Urban’s song “For You” he is saying that he doesn’t want to fight for you. Because he’s not saying that. My statement would be incorrect.

I think that intentional fallacy is dangerous. I can see instances where it is alright not to know the author’s intent (I suppose personal use might be a plausible example), but if you’re going to actually use the work, statements need to be valid. You can preface your interpretation with  “I thought that Urban’s song meant he did not want to fight and so that led me to feel [x,y,and z], but then I learned that really, Urban admits he is scared, but he is willing to fight–and die–…”  Then it’s okay because you’ve made the distinction between your interpretation “not A” instead of the author’s intent “A.”