Thursday, March 25, 2010
The Same Notes Over and Over
Playful graphic interpretations of vocalizations in
“Messa di Voce” by Golan Levin and Zachary Lieberman
with Jaap Blonk and Joan La Barbara.
First, I was driving in my car the other day. I don't often drive, let alone by myself, so this was one of the times I actually had some time to turn up the radio and listen to whatever I felt like listening to. A song came on that got me practically dancing in my seat - a mix of rap and metal and pop. It was fantastic!
Then, I was playing Guitar Hero with my husband, and a question occurred to me as I pressed the same four keys over and over again: what makes it possible for only a few notes to be turned into something amazing?
The song in the car was very repetitious - the same phrase played to the same rhythm, completely predictable, yet so catchy I wanted to listen to it a hundred times over. Guitar Hero lets you play the bass or guitar lines to a variety of songs using only four or five keys. Writing is the same way. We have only 26 letters to work with, and if you ask me, only so many stories to tell over and over. I've always believed that there's only a set amount of plots, and they've all been told before no matter how you structure or tell a story - at its roots is the same ideas retold time and time again.
Yet, somehow, in the hands of a good writer, the same story can be turned into something incredibly unique, something that gets me dancing in my seat.
I'm currently working on a novella that feels to me, cliched and overdone, but I'm telling myself that this story has never had my voice to it, and because of that, it can be something lovely and different. I'm using some notes that people are familiar with, and readers may expect certain things from what I'm doing, but I'm having a lot of fun twisting it all up.
So, I guess my point here today is that we should never shy away from a story idea that feels like everyone else has already done it. I used to think we should. Reinventing the wheel seemed like the only option for a long time.
What stories have you read lately that use the same "notes", but manage to hide it so well the story seems like something new that's never been done before?
Also, don't miss my post over on Innocent Flower today for Master the Shorts week. Davin is guest posting for me, and it's something you don't want to miss!