On a recent trip to Thailand and Cambodia, I encountered some unusual things that reminded me that everything “old” could be reworked and made new again. That is exactly what we as writers strive to do…take a well-used, familiar plot (or archetype) and make it something fresh for the readers.
In the Iliad, Homer’s strong male heroes boasted of killing Amazons, brave warrior women capable of defeating the best of men. This archetype or legend of female warriors is portrayed again and again through history in tales told or written by authors of the time. Wonder Woman, created in 1941, is based on the Amazons, this time with a lasso, red bustier and Amazon bracelets capable of deflecting bullets. The same archetype is repeated again today with Princess Leia, perfectly capable of leading men out of trouble in her own rescue. Another unusual twist is the popular television show Vikings, where we step back in history to pick up the story of fierce women fighting and leading battles. In all these stories, Amazons are put into new genres and yet are a fresh twist on an old story.
You might be curious what made me think of old being twisted into something new and novel. Southeast Asia is an area known for its waterways. Canals were a common form of transportation before decent roads became popular in the last fifty years. Any visit to the countries there will likely include sometime on the water. The main mode of transportation for not only tourists, but anyone wanting a quick boat ride is the “long-tail” boat. Why are they called long-tail? Well, now we are getting into taking something old and using it in a new and unexpected way.
|Long-tail boat, Thailand|
The boats are long and thin to easily fit into many of the small town canals. For years they were the taxis of Bangkok. Their “long tail” is an engine directly mounted on the driveshaft with a propeller at the end. The canal water can be shallow and often filled with debris or water hyacinth (propeller clogging plants), so innovation was required to develop a boat motor to fit the conditions and offered enough power.
|Canal in Bangkok, Thailand|
Expense is also a major factor, as few can afford a fancy new boat motor. Thus, used automotive engines are bought and modified to turn the boat propeller. What kind of motors you ask? We saw Isuzu, Mazda, and many more that had no recognizable markings. The quality of the engines also varied as the economic conditions changed, but people were no less innovative.
We also caught sight of these motors used for many more household tasks where a little horsepower could be a time saving device. While at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, I was lucky enough to snap a quick (although a bit blurred) photo of another unique innovation using these engines. These very young monks were out for a ride.
|Monks out for a ride at Angkor Wat, Cambodia|
My husband and I looked at each other and said, “never thought I’d see that.” That’s exactly the kind of unique surprise a writer wants to give a reader. So, no matter how many times a story has been told, there will always be a perspective you as an author, with your unique life story, can bring to telling a tale. Don’t try to use an archetype or plot the way writers have before you. People change, society changes, and you as an author should change with it and tell an old tale in a new way.