I like to play on old standards. My current children’s horror novel is a mix of monster-under-the-bed and it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-night, ratcheted up for emotional feels.
My newest published work, Roses and Violets, put up on Wattpad, is a play on roses are red, violets are blue, which is about as generic a poem as you can get.
It’s not that I don’t have original ideas. I just like playing with things people take for granted. Subvert the formula, so to speak. It’s why the Birds Fall haiku is a run-on sentence and why Jeopardy put the hero in a plane of enlightenment after an overdose of heroin. Junkies ODing usually result in either destruction or redemption – ours reaches nirvana.
Even Jane Says, which sounds like a normal argument, twists itself, to become a misogynist screed overshadowed by the titular Jane’s utter silence from suicide. Screaming into the void, that one.
I like subversion. Perspective is always the most fun to play with. Even the two comics, the standalone and the sci-fi I’m working on, have subverted endings. In Romance, the hero goes through hell to get what he wants, only to find out it doesn’t want him. In People Of The Sky, our hero makes first contact, but the aliens aren’t necessarily the villains; the hero very well might be.
There’s nothing better than when a story subverts its own assumptions, or takes commonly held beliefs and turns them on their head. Chuck Palahniuk did it to himself with Fight Club 2 and 3. The Matrix is a famous example of the truth not being what you think it is. It’s why movies with epic twists are so great, though I’ll admit I like it better when there’s a philosophical bent to it.
It’s not just subverting a fact of the story (i.e., Bruce Willis is actually dead), but rather, subverting the beliefs in the story (Edward Norton is a nice guy in Primal Fear, Evie’s entire arc in V For Vendetta). It’s why revolutionary thinkers are so highly regarded. They take accepted beliefs and show their roots, their impact, their creaky foundations, and ask, is there a better way?
Roses are red. They’re also white, yellow, blue and black, among others, I’m sure. Violets I’m less clear on. In any case, that’s the nice thing about old standards.
It may be a dark and stormy night, but who knows what the weather might break with the dawn?