The first time I went to my friend Michael’s house, I walked to the corner of his street to take this picture. Apparently, I’m not the only one—he often looks outside his window to see people snapping the same shot.
I took this picture because A) it looks cool and B) it reminded me that there’s never just one way to do something. Whether you’re writing an ad, a short story, a song or anything else, there’s more than one right way to write it.
It’s true in advertising:
An intern recently started working with our team, and we put her right to work, briefing her on a conceptual radio assignment her second day. A soon-to-be college senior, she hasn’t had much real-ad-world training, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. When we met at the end of that week to see what ideas she had come up with, I was more than pleasantly surprised.
I wasn’t looking at scripts yet, just rough ideas. But what got me excited was seeing the way she approached the assignment. One of the ideas she shared featured a grandmother and her grandson having a conversation. It worked. But the next thing she shared was the same idea done a different way with the grandmother telling the story as a monologue. That worked better.
Whether or not that radio spot makes it to the next round, it showed me how she can think around a problem. And in advertising, the way you think is just as, if not more important than your ability to write.
It’s true in fiction writing:
Here’s another one of my favorite prompts to do with a new scene, or better yet, something you’ve already written.
If you’re writing something in first person, take the same exact scene but write it in third person.
If you’re writing something in third person, take that same exact scene but write it in first person. If your scene has more than one character in it, try writing it from each person’s point of view, including the characters you might think of as insignificant. If your scene involves three people eating at a restaurant, try writing it from the waitress’ point of view. You might be surprised at the details she notices.
You can throw second person into the mix if you’re feeling ambitious, but I usually just switch between first and third.
If you’re feeling stuck or just starting out on a project, this exercise can help you figure out the best way to tell your story. I switched the POV of my novel back and forth a few times before I settled on first person. I had to go through the exercise of writing a few chapters each way to see what worked best.
If you’re already set on using a certain POV, this exercise is still valuable. Thinking about something in a new way or from a different point of view can help you discover new details that you may not have picked up on otherwise.
And it’s true with music.
Now, I’m not a songwriter, so I can’t speak to that. But while reinterpreting work in advertising and fiction is something that usually happens behind the scenes, with music, it’s something we can see and hear for ourselves.
I recently discovered a new XM radio station that’s all covers, all the time. I believe it’s channel 302. They position it as bands playing tribute to bands they love, and I think there’s something beautiful about taking a song we all know and interpreting it in a different way.
Here’s a cover song that does just. Enjoy my talented friend, Amy Gerhartz’s cover of Fame, originally recorded by Irene Cara. If this version sounds familiar, you may have heard it featured on the trailer for Anna Nicole, the Lifetime movie about Anna Nicole Smith.
If you like the song, buy it here.