rock opera > jude law.

| Thursday, February 11, 2010
Today's Tune: Zydrate Anatomy

So, we all hear tell of this idea that every story has already been told, right? Originality is dead, and there's nothing you can come up with that hasn't been done before. Probably by Shakespeare.

The key to overcoming this, of course, is to incorporate your own spin and voice into the story. Sure, the plot may be derived from Much Ado About Nothing, but your imagination and characters will give it new light and find it a new audience. People love the stories they love, no matter how many incarnations there are.

But there are some times when the story is so similar, when so little newness is brought to the table, that I just have to headdesk.


Admittedly, I am pouty about this because a film I like very much, which is sort of a little-known cult flick, did this already. Almost the exact same thing, actually. The new (big shiny uber produced) film tweaked things - made it into a dramatic thriller, added a partner, took out the father-daughter element - but the premise is more or less the same.

The film I'm thinking of is Repo! The Genetic Opera. It's really campy and deliberately gross and gory, but it's so fun. I really liked the story, and though I'm sure they weren't the first to think of synthetic organs being repossessed by Repo men, it's still the first one I think of.

Did the big film steal the idea from the little film? Pretty unlikely. It's a clever idea, but not revolutionary. And clearly a film like this would have to have been in production for a long time (a year? two? I'm not sure on films).

I know I'm probably being oversensitive because I'm a fan of the campy little cult flick, but I can't help but think BAH on this new movie, and am unlikely to see it.

And this, friends, is why I think it's extremely important to keep your ear to the pulse of books and publishing, particularly if you want to publish in a specific genre. You don't want to be the person whose story elements are so close to another author that people roll their eyes at you and think you ripped someone off.

Granted, this is largely public perception. It is entirely possible in both the film and publishing industries for two people to have very similar ideas and release them fairly close together, thus giving the impression that one ripped off the other when it's not true at all. (Films and books take years to produce, as we all know, which means it's highly unlikely there was any ripoff happening). Still, public perception matters.

It boils back down to knowing what's "hot" in your genre, knowing the frequently-used tropes, keeping an eye out for the big popular sellers as well as the lesser-known reads that still have a cult following. In other words, read and research widely, and do it often. Keep up. Know how to make your story stand apart.

Now that I've posted this, I'm sure like eight books will come out that feature an intensely similar plot to my WIP, and I'll have a severe case of foot-in-mouth to deal with. Heh.


{ Portia } at: February 11, 2010 at 4:22 PM said...

Great post! I agree, and researching what else is out there can be such fun. If you totally love the genre you've chosen to write in, your research is secretly your pleasure reading too :-)

{ Christi Goddard } at: February 11, 2010 at 4:24 PM said...

Repo: The Genetic Opera is hilarious. I loved the one son who was so over the top. And, of course, Anthony Stewart Head is a hottie.

{ Jon Paul } at: February 12, 2010 at 2:45 AM said...

Dudette--(can I call you that?)

I think you hit the nail on the head. Voice is an extremely important discriminator. I think the long lead time of getting a novel out the door means it's basically impossible to avoid having a plot similar to something else in the market. But if your voice is distinctive and unique, you can bypass this hurdle.

I haven't seen these new iterations of Repoman films but I grew up watching the 1984 film of the same name ( on HBO. It goes to show that story ideas are truly recycleable.

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