There was a time when I looked forward to writing something either as a parody or "in the style of." An assignment for 18th C. Literature in college involved writing an essay as Jonathan Swift might have done. I had a ball. At this late stage, an acquaintance whose taste and ideas I admire has been pressing me to write a novel using a theme he suggests with a plot line he supplies. It's not anything like what I've done before, and I'm finding myself truly baffled as I try to figure out how to go about it.
The idea is a good and probably salable one. It's a mystery (he defines only the conflict). I can't seem to manufacture the train of events leading to the crime and its aftermath. Furthermore, he fails to understand how hard it is to make a story unless you (the writer) know the characters who will act it out. I can't get my head around the four main ones. I have thus far three versions of a beginning, complete with different names in each attempt.
Having just taken a look at a passage from one of my novels, I realized something that doubtless should have been obvious from the start: if my style or voice or whatever you want to call it is too set, how can I hope to create people and motives from someone else's original notion?
Apart from the challenge of producing something analogous to a work for hire, I now face a question that should have occurred to me long ago: should I try to learn flexibility again, or should I stay stubborn and loyal to what I seem to have become?
And anyone who wants to point out the old saw about an old dog and new tricks, you may keep your remarks to yourself! ;-). It's a fallacy. You can teach even an oldster if she's willing to learn.