Freewriting Exercise: Story Remix

There is a lot of value when artists are magpies, collecting, listening, mimicking. Trying their hand at different things.

This exercise is about remixing, collecting, gathering, playing with existing stories. Doing your version of something just as an experiment.

The opportunities here are endless.

I find the mimicking and copying approach more valuable than studying bare-bones “story structure” and trying to engineer a story from that angle.

Copying something about some other story can be more about getting at the feeling and internalizing what they’re doing.

Copying the structure can feel dry and flat. As when you are obligated to play a given note at a given time. Because it’s correct. It’s the “right way” to tell a story.

The right way to tell a story isn’t something a framework can teach you. A framework can help only if you already grasp the essence of what a good story has, and just want additional clarity to see to have additional vocabulary to discren what you were alrseady seeing.

The exercise

  • Find a story that you like.
  • Take a scene from it or look at the complete synopsis of the story.
  • Change some things about the story and write about the downstream effects of those changes.

Some options to explore

Take snippets from some other source. Do your own version of them. How would you change things?

Or simply freewrite aspects of it, copying it and repeating it till you internalize something about it. Then, when you feel inspired, write something different, sort of channeling what you felt. This is no different really than watching Star Wars a hundred times because you like it and then later wanting to write something that feels like Star Wars. It’s just more explicit.

Do a sort of mad libs with it. Take out the nouns and replace them with different nouns.

Tell the same story in a different order. Feel what happens.

Tell the same story but with different main characters. The external story might be the same, but you focus on one of the minor characters rather than the main ones.

Gather snippets and write them and weave in your own stuff.

Rewrite the main elements of the story, continually changing things about it. This gives you the opportunity to quickly repeat the story again and again, trying different distortions on for size. What if Han Solo was a woman? What if Luke wasn’t Vader’s son after all?

Reconcile these distortions not within the logic of the existing story but to explore what completely different story dynamics and spaces can feel like.

Looking at something already out there, stretching it, asking questions, messing with it, and taking what you like and letting go of what you don’t.

It’s a way of exploring story and also feeling how subtle changes can have interesting side effects.

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