Writing warm-up: Historical inaccuracy

In Writing on April 20, 2012 at 6:47 pm

This Friday’s writing exercise is similar to last Friday’s, in that its purpose isn’t to generate a great piece of writing but to loosen you up and get your mind working. This week, though, you’ll be working on warming up your imagination — for plotting and character building — as opposed to stretching the limits of structure or syntax.

Rewriting History

The exercise can work in one of two ways, but in both cases your goal is to rewrite a small bit of history in the most absurd way possible. In approach #1, you attempt to answer any question to which you don’t already know the answer. Small questions generally work best — “why does Swiss cheese have holes?” or “who was the first person to eat a tomato?” — and the more far-fetched your explanation, the better.

In approach #2, you attempt to connect seemingly disparate things (the launch of Sputnik, for instance, with the invention of the Tootsie Roll) in as ludicrous a way as you can manage. You can start by making a list of historical or pseudo-historical events (births, inventions, wars, whatever) and then choose two at random.

So those are the basics, but to make it clear (and because I want to) here’s an example of approach #1:

The incredible — and literally untrue — story of how the San Diego Chargers got their logo

Contrary to popular belief, the logo of the Sandiego Chargers is not a curved lightning bolt (after all, who’s ever heard of a lightning bolt curving like that besides, you know, scientists?) but is, quite obviously, a mustache.

To understand why we have to go all the way back to 1917 when the famous millionaire baron, Jerome von Whipple-Bing (pictured below) purchased the West Coast Bicuspids — as they were then called — for fourteen dollars and a ride on a very tall horse.

Now, as it turns out, it was later this very same year that the illustrious Baron Von Whipple-Bing was injured in a rather unfortunate explosion involving a grapefruit and an unwise quantity of gunpowder. The Baron survived the blast, but his upper lip was scarred and left completely barren. He fell into a deep depression. He was the barren baron.

The next year, at the behest of his best friend (and famed sea turtle impersonator), Puddin’ Pop the fresh water turtle, the Baron renamed the team the Glorious Golden Mustaches in tribute to his lost lip adornment. Comforted, he soon regained his joie de vive.

The rest, as they say, is history — with one small hiccup. For, unfortunately, the Baron was quite insane and followed an actual sea turtle out into the Pacific the very next spring. He was never heard from again, and the team was immediately renamed the Chargers (because, frankly, the other name was silly). But the logo stuck and it’s been with them ever since.

Now, don’t spend too long on any one of these; the point is to get yourself started, to loosen yourself up like a runner before a marathon.  (Actually, a better analogy would be the way improv comedians shout gibberish and jump around before a show, but you get the point). If you come up with a reason to edit pictures of mustachioed aviators, so much the better.

Give it a try and flex those imagination muscles. Your imagi…muscles. Imagimuscles.

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