I was inspired for our latest stream by the recent YouTube video “How Star Wars Was Saved in the Edit.”
It explains how the first Star Wars movie as it was originally edited (which almost no one has ever seen) was an incomprehensible mess. It was only after going back through another round of editing that it turned into the masterpiece it’s seen as today.
You can watch it here:
This idea fascinates me. I love how essentially the film that we all know and love was hiding there, made out of the same raw footage of the original bad cut — it just had to be reorganized.
And the same idea works for writing. We all try so hard to get our first drafts done perfectly that sometimes they never get done at all. It’s easy to forget that they’re not supposed to be perfect: first drafts are just to get something onto the page. The perfection comes later, with editing. That’s when you turn the terrible stuff (like the original Star Wars cut) into better stuff.
So for the exercise during the stream, I wanted to try and turn some trash into treasure. To do this, I used the website Fanfic Maker, which automatically generates a horribly-written story for you. After getting input from the chat for what the story should be about, we got our terrible story and read it together.
It was… painfully bad. Here, you can read the beginning:
It was a typical day in Peanut Butter…. before the trouble started….
Hi. My name is Allison and this is my story.
A year ago got a job working for Justice League. I am just a intern, but already I am fitting in like “one of the boys” (I am a girl though!) In fact my boss, Steve, has taken a real shine to me and has said he will let me play around with one of Justice Leagues big things.
I cant wait!
Apologies for any brain tumors that may have caused. And you didn’t even get to the part about Harold the Butcher or the tricycles.
But it being bad was the point. As we read it the story, we kept track of (the few things) that worked, so that when we re-wrote it we could keep the same spirit of the story alive in the new version. Here’s what we ended up with:
Allison was the only girl member of the First Grade Justice League at Peanut Butter Elementary School. She had to fight her way into it by convincing the leader Harold “The Butcher” Johnson that she was just as tough as they were. During lunch in the cafeteria, she walked up to Harold and showed him her ham sandwich that her mom had made for her, and she ate the whole thing in five bites. Since everyone else in class was still eating peanut butter and jelly, they were shocked at her display of pure carnivorous aggression.
Except for Harold. He’d been called “The Butcher” because he’d been bringing bologna sandwiches to lunch for the past year. Without even any mayonnaise. He watched her eat in awe, took a bite of his own meaty sandwich, and shook her hand, saying, “Welcome to the team, Allison. I hope you’re prepared to fight for Justice.”
I have to say I’m pretty happy with the new beginning. It grounds the reader immediately by giving them the “who, what, when, and where” so that they can visualize the scene, and it answers the important question of “why (should I keep reading this)?” with the answer of “because it’s funny and I want to see more First Grade Justice League shenanigans.”
I could’ve kept writing about Allison all day, but it was time to move on to our writing prompt. Today the chat voted for this cool one by dauntedbox376: “You click START to start your Roomba. Instead of vacuuming, the Roomba replies, ‘What’s the point? It’s just going to be dirty again tomorrow.'”
We started off with a philosophical take on the idea (“what’s the point of anything, then?”) thanks to suggestions from chat, but our story evolved into something quite different.
If you want to join us and help write a story by trolling in chat, or share your own writing for feedback, then we’d love to have you. We stream on Twitch every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 7:30pm-9:30pm (U.S. Eastern Standard Time).
And you missed the stream, you can still watch it here on rerun until Twitch deletes it.
Hope to see you next time, friend!
Featured image: Pakutaso