by Leife Shallcross (writing at

On Wednesday night, at the monthly Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild general meeting, we had a fascinating presentation from author Russell Kirkpatrick. I’m gonna say it was about story shape, because that’s what he said it was about. But that’s kind of like saying Lord of the Rings is about hobbits.*

Somehow Russell talked us through sculpting the shape of a story using an analysis of wave files from his extensive and eclectic music collection, with a particular focus on prog rock. I’ll just leave that there.

One thing that really jumped out at me, though, was a point he made at the very beginning of his talk. This was: don’t let the fear of not being original stop you writing your story. He illustrated this with clever 1 second grabs from three wildly different songs. This showed how a particular element that has current, on-trend appeal might get picked up and used, not just in different songs, but across a range of music genres, either because it is currently looping in the common creative consciousness, or, if you’re more cynical, to deliberately broaden the appeal of a song. Probably even both. And what’s more, they get resurrected, as samples, years later for new works, by new artists in new genres that didn’t exist back then.

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