From the Desk – Remix! – Create or Recreate?

Create or Recreate?

One is new and the other is copying – right?

One way to look at creativity is as an expression of thoughts, ideas, emotions, giving a voice to the accumulation of what has entered us at a particular point in life.

In a very real sense we are recreating all of those inputs and expressing them through the lens which is our interpretation or focus.

The Impressionist painters were seen as a group challenging the specified norms of the French art establishment. In their eyes, however, many of them were trying to find a more natural expression of the world around them, the sights, sounds, and emotions, in their experience.

Why do so many musicians/singers record their own versions of others’ songs? A cynic might say that if the song was successful before then it probably will be again. However, more often than not, the recreated version has a different feel or mood as it is expressed through the new musician.

The author Ian Rankin wrote his first and second Rebus novels with a knowing nod to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There is no chemical experimentations or potions being drunk, but what makes Rankin’s hero Rebus so successful is that we see the darker elements of the man’s character as we also learn of with Dr. Jekyll.

Our creativity will always find its raw materials in what has come before us, and it is a creative person’s role to share that recreation, which others will take as their raw materials.

Rankin revisits the Jekyll and Hyde motiff when he brings in the gangster Cafferty, often in opposition to Rebus but also in many ways looking to achieve a similar outcome, although the reason or motivation is oppositional.

Take a tour through the last few hundred years of religious art and see how the figure of Jesus has changed during that time. Are artists creating a new Jesus? The figure of Jesus remains the same, but the context, the clothing, the expression, the realism, do change – Jesus is recreated through that artist/generations’ lens.

Create or recreate?

Both are there in the act of creativity.

Perhaps one just has a more explicit nod to the creativity of the past.

Where You Live.

In, British designer and tv presenter, Kevin McLoud’s 43 Principles of Home, he makes the following observations in Principle 16,

Make the context of where you live part of your narrative . . . Research local history . . . Memorise your landmarks . . . Study the flora, fauna, and geology of your place . . .

And most importantly,

Invent a story for your place.

So what is the story of your place?

I confess to being poor at the background setting and surroundings. For me a building is a building and the number of floors might make a difference if I need the protagonist to jump off, but I’m not to fussy about the name or the colour or any other feature of significance.

However, for many novels and stories, the place is significant.

Reviewers and journalists write of Inspector Morse’s Oxford, or Rebus’ Edinburgh. Lee Child gives the latest place Jack Reacher visits a name and some curious quirk of past history, even if he does confess to making some of it up on occasion.

So, consider giving your story’s location an overhaul in terms of location information.

Readers seem to like being able to fix a story to a particular location.

Or, consider where you live and, as per Principle 16, invent a story for right there.

Meeting With Your Characters.

I mean a literal meeting with your characters.

You know, sat on chairs around a table, kind of meeting.

I’ve spent most of the day involved in those kind of meetings and at some point, when I am certain I was supposed to be paying close attention, I thought about writers having meetings.

Not with their agents or editors. Not even with the press in an interview about the stellar success of their latest novel. But a meeting with the main characters, possibly even some of the minor characters, of their latest work.

TV shows have read throughs in the Writer’s Room or with the actors before filming, so why not the protagonists of your latest work?

Are they happy with their roles? Does the dialogue feel realistic to them? Do they understand where the plot is leading them?

Maybe they aren’t happy with their latest date? Or they would have definitely defended themselves with the pencil and not the rolled up magazine. Or why they need to wear a mixed wool blend in their pullover despite their allergies.

I’m not even going to get into the woeful way I accessorise my female characters and or why they didn’t get to use the pencil!

I apologise unreservedly.

Imagine if James Bond had demanded of Ian Fleming why every woman he meets turns out to be working for the opposition or is killed fifteen pages after he meets them? Harry Potter arguing with J.K. Rowling about wanting a bigger wand? Or Rebus asking Ian Rankin for a transfer to Exeter.

So, how do you think you would fair with your characters in a face to face meeting?

Give it a try. Make an agenda. And make sure there is plenty of coffee.

P.s. Make notes!