The Literary Remix Project
Sherman Alexie is a great author. I’ve mentioned him in my hubs before and I recommend that anyone who is willing should give his books a try. When I had the opportunity to hear him speak, I learned a great deal from him. One of the things he said that stuck with me was that, unlike musical albums, books don’t get remixes when they are re-released. The paperback, in general, is exactly the same as the hardcover. He didn’t think that was right so he set out to create a remix of his then current book “War Dances”. Since then he has released the paperback version with “the remix” clearly printed on the cover. I’m glad to see he did it as it helps to pioneer what I think could be the next big thing in literature.
But there is a lot more to this than just Sherman Alexie’s pet project. In fact, the idea I will be following involves the use of other writers’ work, not my own. This style of writing was first introduced to me by one of my drama professors in college. We were given a very short story to adapt into a stage play. There were only two rules: none of the dialogue could be changed in any way (some could be removed, but nothing could be reworded or added) and we could take as many liberties with the story as we wanted for everything else, which included an ending that was difficult to stage. The story was called “Little Things” By Ramond Carver and suggested, at the end of the story, that an infant was put in harms way (I won’t get any more detailed for anyone who plans to read the story). Anyway, I decided to take the creative liberty my instructor had given us and run away with it. The final product was a short play about Bonnie and Clyde fighting over a golden statue. All of the dialogue was the same, so I technically completed the assignment. In the end, the teacher loved the interpretation and it planted in my mind the seed of an idea.
Many years later a book was released called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The book had a similar concept to my old assignment; it meshed a literary classic with a modern day zombie narrative. The book was so popular that it warranted a movie adaptation. This fueled my earlier thoughts of such a wild form of writing being viable, as did the realization that one of my favorite authors (H. P. Lovecraft) had the copyright expire on his work, therefore making it public domain. All of these ideas didn’t come to a focal point until I received a secret santa book from my writing club. The book, “Return to me” by Rosemary Rogers, was a romance novel set in the civil war era. I didn’t really have much interest in reading it, but our group decided that the next assignment would be to write something about the book, or something in the style of the book. I don’t know if someone said something to cause it, but suddenly it clicked in my head; I would take the dialogue and write my own story out of it. The result was a steampunk romance that I am very proud of, though I can’t post it because of copyright laws on the book. So I then decided to seek out books/stories without copyrights (public domain) that I could share with other people.
The rules are as follows:
1. Must use Public Domain material. I have no desire to plagiarize or offend any authors past or present. Only if given permission by the author would I consider doing this to a modern story.
2. All original dialogue must remain the same. Lines can be removed, but not added or reworded. Names must also remain the same because they appear in the dialogue.
3. Since most of the stories are too long for the HubPages format, I will focus only on excerpts/scenes that I feel have the most potential. Should one or more projects become successful (or I just really enjoyed writing them) I will consider writing more from the same story.
4. Everything else is open to complete creative freedom.
My hope is that this will become an ongoing feature I can revisit again and again. A lot of that depends on how well this first effort goes, but I also believe this method of writing can be very therapeutic and fun for authors. I wrote about a similar subject in my hub about Fan Fiction, but the basic concept is that it gets you writing faster because you don’t have to worry about dialogue or character names. One might think that it limits your creativity, but I found it far more beneficial to find creative solutions around any problems I might encounter. It really helped direct and refine my writing. For this reason I encourage everyone interested to give it a try, even if it’s just a fun project you never show anyone. At the bottom of this hub you will find a few links to public domain material as well as my own remix projects.
A Question of Respect
As I tested the waters for how a project like this would be received there was some concern about disrespecting the original authors, and stories, by stealing their dialogue. I want to reassure everyone right now that I will always give full credit to the original works of literature. The purpose of this series is not to create a parody of the original works, but rather find a creative new interpretation of the dialogue. I find that many writers excel when they are forced to write around an obstacle, rather than being given complete creative freedom. By adhering to the original dialogue it encourages new paths of writing and often results in something much better than a completely original tale (or creates the option of turning that idea into an original tale at a later time). These authors, from whom I am borrowing, are merely jump off points. I respect them and the stories they created, and want to use their writing as a tool to enhance my own writing. I am making no such claim that my interpretations of their work are better than the original. I think of this more like fan fiction; an exercise in writing that isn’t meant to be marketed as an original piece by me, but rather a tool for all writers to use. In every installment I will always list the title of the original story, the author, and a link where the original can be read.
My Remix Projects:
Links to Public Domain stories:
(Disclaimer: Literary Remix has no affiliation with any other projects with a similar concept. If the name is similar to another feature, it is purely coincidental.)