I was going to write this dumb tweet about how Watson (from Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories) and Wooster (from Wodehouse's Jeeves & Wooster stories) could join up and form a firm of consulting twits. Now, setting aside how unfair that is to Watson--who isn't that much of a screw-up in Conan Doyle's stories, though some of the later movies relegate him to comic sidekick--it started me trying to expand on the tweet. If Watson and Wooster were paired up, where were Jeeves and Holmes? I guess I could combine them, but Holmes (super-detective) plus Jeeves (super-butler) is sort of already Batman and Alfred.
There's a lesson in just that opening story: Twitter is pretty silly--or at least I use it for silly things--but because it forces me to write and think, I come up with some things. And even if those things are silly, they might lead me on. In short, the lesson (that I need more than you, probably) is "keep writing." Because you never know when something you write will lead you on to something that seriously rings a bell for you.
So here's the bell that rang for me:
If you're stuck for a story, why not play fictional duo mash-up until something works. I don't mean you should literally write out a Watson meets Wooster story. There's a place for that story, but if you do a literary mash-up that's clearly a mash-up, you're going to limit your scope (and, ahem, market). After all, if you're writing Watson & Wooster, you're writing a pastiche or parody or homage. Using already made and known fictional characters is a bit of a wink towards the audience. You can write a comedy that way, but you're probably not going to write a searing love story that will sweep up your audience when you start with "What if Wooster met Watson?"
And searing love story is the goal, right?
Instead of literally taking those (literary) characters, try this: take the characters, find the core, and make that your own thing. For instance...
Take Bill (from Bill and Ted movies/tv shows/apps, hopefully)--a bumbling, romantic time traveler--and throw him together with Thelma, the put-upon housewife (of Thelma and Louise). Now Bill wants to save Thelma, but he's a bumbling, well-meaning idiot, and Thelma has to figure out her own way out of this trap of her humdrum life.
Take Sherlock Holmes--druggie detective--and give him the cat Hobbes as his companion. Now you've got a broken man and his imaginary cat friend trying to solve other people's traumas and probably not able to solve their own.
Take drunk detective Nick Charles (from The Thin Man) and give him the boy wonder/trauma survivor Robin as his ward, and you have a detecting family with a drinking problem, along with probably an anger issue.
And so on.
So next time you're stuck for some characters or a premise, take a spin through your favorite fictional (or real!) duos and see what weird combinations come up. Some of them may seem ridiculous (Batman and Hutch?) or untenable (Dr. Jekyll/Hyde and The Beast?), but some of them may spark an idea for you.
Why aren't you writing ... fictional duo mash-ups?