Same Song, Different Tune

Outtakes 195

Same Song, Different Tune

By Cait Collins


Three boys grew up together. They were closer than brothers. When they entered college, they chose the same major, planned to graduate together, and work together. But on graduation night one walks the stage to get his degree. Ten years later, they are reunited. What happened to separate the boys? What brought them back together?

On the surface, there is nothing new to this story. It’s been told time and again, because there are a limited number of stories. Depending on the instructor and the text book used, we were taught there are between four and seven stories; man against man, man against nature, man against himself, and coming of age are the most common themes. Yet each retelling can be new and exciting. It all depends on the writer, his theme, his characters, and the circumstances around which he builds the story.

What if the first boy was badly injured in a car accident while on vacation? The head injury resulted in a memory loss. He wanders the country looking for home. The second boy is forced to drop out of college when his mom, a single parent, dies suddenly. He has two younger siblings that need a guardian, and so he moves home to care for them; The third continues his studies, graduates, gets his masters degree, and makes a name for himself in his chosen profession. A news bulletin changes all three lives.

I’m playing with this story line.

I have a number of questions to deal with. What is the profession the boys planned to pursue? They need names. I’ll start out with Tom, Dick, and Harry. The characters will tell me who they really are. Who is the antagonist? I need three, maybe four major settings. What are their social backgrounds? Do they all have brothers and sisters? What secondary character will enter the story? Am I writing a novel or a novella? Is my work a mystery or closer to mainstream?

The process of creating a new work is both exciting and frustrating. There will be days when I am prolific and days when I struggle to write one paragraph. At this point I know one thing. Three boys, now men, will reunite. But will their reunion by joyous or a heartbreak? Truth is, I don’t know; however, they will tell me. The men will guide the story. I look forward to the adventure.



Trivial Pursuit

Outtakes 43

Trivial Pursuit

I love Trivial Pursuit. It seems I can recall tons of irrelevant facts, but forget the important information. I have come to realize that I never want to quit learning these little bits of information. Will I ever need to know the name of the most decorated soldier in World War II? Probably not, but it is a Trivial Pursuit question,  and Audie Murphy is the answer. And who can forget losing a tournament to two guys who missed every literary question, and then come up with Tom, Dick, and Harry in response to a Dickens question. That’s the fun of the game.

If, like me, you have a head full of trivia, use it! I pulled old ad slogans for HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW.  What’s wrong with deserving a break today? Or taking a licking and keep on ticking? It’s simple and the reader can relate to the slogans.

Famous quotes also work. I keep my copy of BRTLETT’S FAMOUS QUOTATIONS  handy when I’m working on difficult scenes. I can research by key words or author. It’s not always necessary to use a whole quote. “My dear, I don’t give a…” will always make me envision a dashing Rhett Butler. “I’ll think about it tomorrow…” brings thoughts of Scarlett O’Hara. The point is to use whatever you have to enhance your writing. And when you borrow, don’t use the quotes in a derogatory manner. Respect the original author.

Cait Collins