What this version of Careless Whisper can teach about telling stories

This is Careless Whisper on an acoustic guitar and it sounds amazing.

What has this got to do with writing? More than you might think.

It is often tempting to think that in order to “make it” as a writer we have to come up with entirely original stories, fresh settings, new and different characters and do something that no one has ever thought of before.

However, as demonstrated by the video above, taking a classic and putting it into a new setting can make something entirely great and unique to you.

  • Take Firefly as an example. The old done-to-death cowboy story but set on a spaceship. One of the greatest TV series that ended too soon (in my opinion).
  • What about A.I.: Artificial Intelligence? A.I. is pretty much an update of The Adventures of Pinocchio but set in a post-apocalyptic North America.
  • Edward Scissorhands is just Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein set in 1960s suburbia.
  • The Lion King, songs aside, is more or less William Shakespeare’s Hamlet told in the form of an animal fable.
  • The 1996 film, Independence Day is near enough a reworking of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds with a more modern setting. In both cases, a virus saves the day.

This is something you can do too. Take a classic, strip it down to the themes and narrative mechanics and rebuild it in a new setting.

Don’t copy; reinvent.

For example, what if you took Cinderella’s story – just the core elements – and set the whole thing aboard a pirate ship? Or recycled it in space? Or made it a young boy’s coming of age story set in the 1960s?

For example, what if you took the biblical parable of The Good Samaritan and respun it to tell the story of a white supremacist saved by a Caribbean man and the friendship that followed? You would have the platform to explore what it means to be a good neighbour as well as tell a very compelling story.

Reframing a classic is a time honoured tradition. Here is a list of reframed classics. Here is another list.

Why not try it for yourself? Find a much loved old classic and let it inspire you to tell a whole new story.

Here’s a geeky TV show theme tune on an acoustic guitar to show you anything can be reinterpreted into any setting and, with a little (or a lot) of skill, be amazing.

If you want to hear more amazing acoustic covers the guy in both these videos has a channel full of great tracks like this. Check it out.

The muse is strong with this one

Sometimes a simple conversation can spark a the most profound ideas. As writers, when the muse comes calling it is a rare and beautiful thing. However when we are already working hard on something it is easy to ignore our muse.

I have always held that when inspiration strikes – when Lady Muse graces us – we writers should run with it while we have the chance.

For me, this happened just recently. I was talking with Sam, one of the writers that comes to the creative writer’s group that I host and I said something like:

When the muse is with you, make the most of her.

To which Sam replied that I should put that on a t-shirt. The muse was strong with us in that moment and I did just that.

May the muse be with you

I also put it on a mug along with:

May the muse be with you

Mainly because I am a total geek, like that.

In fact there is a whole shop being set up with these designs.

Now you can buy a t-shirt with that advice on it. Profits will go to the Thanet Creative Writers Charity to help fund things for writers in Thanet.

When the muse is with you...

Perfect or good enough

Who is this guy?

We’ve talked before about imposter syndrome. It’s one of the things that can hold you back as a writer – the feeling that you are faking it somehow. Similar, but not quite the same, is the drive to be perfect. There’s probably a fair amount of overlap.

One of the things I have been wrestling with lately is the balance between driving towards perfection and realising that “good enough” is a far better start than no start at all.

It is quite unlikely that anyone will create a perfect first draft and I know I would benefit from reminding myself that just getting a first draft written – even if it is terrible – is a huge achievement.

I’ve blogged about that just recently.

Read: What’s so great about perfection, anyway?

Do you let perfection stand in the way of getting started? I know I do sometimes. Tell us about it in the comments below.

All my unwept tears

All my unwept tears is a very short poem that I shared recently both in the Thanet Creative Writers group (via our page) and on my personal blog – Unwept Tears (a poem).

The poem, I had been told, was too short.

As I explained in my blog post, I could make it longer but I will not do that. This is because a poem should be as long as it needs to be but no longer. Poetry is the art of saying a great deal with as few words as possible. It’s a bit like Twitter, in that sense, but for expressing emotions and not necessarily limited to a character count (exceptions exist).

The wonderful thing about sharing with fellow writers is the constant flow of great feedback. For example, I was pointed to a publication specialising in short poems. It was really good.

Sometimes, just sharing what you have is the most productive you can be.

Don’t let Imposter Syndrome stop you

Who is this guy?

Impostor syndrome is that nagging feeling that you are really a “fraud” and do not deserve your success.

For us writers, that nagging doubt that we are “not really writers” can be crippling. At Thanet Creative Writers we have been talking about imposter syndrome and how it affects us. Some of our writers expressed surprise that it was actually “a thing” but most of us have felt it at one time or another.

This post has moved. Go to Don’t let Imposter Syndrome stop you on our new site to continue reading it.