Remixing in Writing

For this week’s exploration [0] let us delve into my little used fiction writing side and talk about my flash fiction piece published on this very site just a few weeks ago.

The thing with the mountain lion? Totally happened to some friends of mine. Every part of that story was stolen from somewhere else [1]. Mountain lion? Stolen. Location? Stolen. Early 1900s Girl Scout troop? The story was written on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts; you couldn’t trip over a verb that week without landing face first in some retrospective or other [2]. Plucky girl heroines? My library has a complete collection of Lucy Maude Montgomery. Even the assignment was based on theft; steal a photo from Flickr and write a story about it.

That photo was f-ing awesome, by the way. Period dress? Sabre? Pirate hat? To someone who has worked renaissance festivals for 20+ years, that was practically a homecoming.

From the photo I got the character of Jane, from Ms. Montgomery and Ms. Low [3] I got her plucky self reliance and adventurous spirit, and I developed a backstory based loosely on something I had once heard about William Allen White’s daughter [4].

However, I had no story.

Zip. Zilch. Nada. Character and situation, yes. Actual plot, no. In desperation and with a deadline looming [5] I pilfered the story of the mountain lion from a friend. Bam! Beginning, middle, end, and it clocked in right around 997 words.

For some reason, as a kid I developed the idea that creativity meant making things up from nothing, developing something complete and unique [6]. The term “remixing” had yet to be invented. If I made something by following a pattern and was praised for it, I felt like an impostor. The creativity belonged to the pattern designer, not to me. As a grownup I’ve learned about how to adapt what went before into what is coming into being, but it still feels like craftsmanship, not creativity.

But as a grownup I’ve also learned that life is about getting over myself.

[0] Sounds better than “random babbling,” doesn’t it?
[1] Index I copy from old Vladivostok telephone directory.
[2] Supposedly cookie sales are better business training than you can get in some well-reputed B-schools.
[3] Founder of the Girl Scouts. Try to keep up.
[4] At an age when most girls of her era were putting their hair up and becoming young ladies, she insisted on wearing plaits, because the younger she looked the more she could get away with.
[5] Deadlines are my muse.
[6] Which is almost impossible, of course, and almost nobody does it that way, and when they try it is largely inaccessible to the audience. But as a kid, everything in the world looks unique.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.