The rewrite process can sometimes lead us into a rut. Our attempts to make our work as clear and specific as possible can begin to feel routine. So sometimes we need to mix things up and get a little dangerous on the page.
David Bowie used to write songs by cutting out words and sticking them together in surprising ways. By randomly arranging words he arrived at juxtapositions that he might never have otherwise considered. Consider his song, “Five Years,” with the line, “My brain hurt like a warehouse,” or “A soldier with a broken arm, fixed his stare to the wheel of a Cadillac.” These lines may not make much logical sense, yet they are evocative.
There is value in exploring juxtapositions at the level of words, sentences and even plot. Our assumptions about the best way to unravel our story can often limit us from having revelatory experiences. Don’t be afraid to mix things up, to take risks and surprise yourself. Your story is far more malleable than you might think. Just for fun, take the scenes from your first act and reorder them — just do this in your head or on a single piece of paper. Notice how the story is told differently, how it alters the meaning, how it changes the narrative flow. Don’t assume that you have discovered the most dynamic way to tell your story until you’ve explored a variety of options.
Our idea of our story is never the whole story; it’s not that our idea is incorrect, but that it is incomplete. The rewrite process demands that we be willing to continually shed our idea of our story for the truth of our story. This is not a scientific process, but a creative one. We do this by moving words around, by moving scenes around, by being willing to allow our idea of our story to collapse in order to arrive at a clearer understanding of what we are attempting to express.
Sometimes what is left unsaid provides our story with its meaning. It is often not the words themselves, but the juxtaposition of sentences that ignite the imagination.
Consider the six-word short story often attributed to Ernest Hemingway:
“For Sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”
A beginning, middle, and end. Each sentence, on its own has little meaning, but together it conveys a world that is devastating as our imagination fills in the gaps.
If your prose feels utilitarian, remove every second line from a paragraph and notice how the paragraph reads. Obviously it won’t make much sense, but you will begin to see opportunities that you hadn’t previously imagined. Try moving sentences around randomly. Read them out of order and notice how it alters the meaning.