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EVERYTHINGS A CLICHE

July 14, 2021

       I’m sure I’ve talked about this plenty of times in the past, but especially after a movie I watched the other night, everything has been done before and everything is cliché.

            Does that mean that you have nothing to write about?

            Far from it.

            Read on…

THE FIRST ORIGINAL IDEA

            Maybe the first original idea, that we know about, was chipped in stone, or painted on a cave wall. Then again, who’s to say, those authors didn’t cop the idea from someone else in the telling?

            Was their such a thing as influencing, plagiarism, or copying other’s works back in the stone age? Did anyone care?

EVERYBODY INFLUENCES EVERYBODY ELSE

            I have to digress back to rock and roll for my most memorable example.

            One time during an interview, guitarist Richie Blackmore was asked where he came up with some of his guitar licks. He said he stole many of them from other artists.

            That’s right, guitar shredder and god Richie Blackmore admitted he stole licks from other guitarists just like everyone else.

            The same is true for every artist no matter the medium.

            Whether it be directly or indirectly. We all beg, borrow or steal ideas or influences from our mentors, peers, or heroes. We emulate and are influenced in style by those we admire.

THERE’S THIS MOVIE…

            There’s this new movie that just came out.

            It’s loud, full of monsters, and full of cliches.

            It cops a lot of things from a lot of different movies.

            The critics are having a field day with how many things it stole from other movies.

            Those that loved it, including me, don’t care.

            This movie reminded me that once again, not only is everything cliché, but there are few if any original ideas. It’s a matter of how you shove everything together into your own unique blend and make it your own.

            This movie did in such a way that some thought was too close to several similar movies in the past.

            Some people took offense to this. Others could care less.

THINK OF ALL THE BOOKS

            People don’t seem to get so bent out of shape when you have thousands upon thousands of books that come out every year that do exactly the same thing. They all have a plot, they all have characters, they all have some kind of genre. They’re all full of exactly the same things you find in a thousand other similar books.

            Why aren’t people getting so upset about books doing the same thing the movies are doing. Music?

            Okay, in music there are those that sue and in very few cases, they make a case. A melody can go only so far before it becomes a complete copy. In a few cases, the artists demonstrated to a court that the twelve notes, who can be combined in a finite way, were combined in such a way as to be a direct copy. In a few cases, the court was not convinced those same twelve notes were similar enough to be considered a direct copy.

            However, when it comes to thousands upon thousands of words, there are a lot more combinations, which given the much more limited number of plots, genres etc, would seem to still give way to the same thing as music. Plagiarism. However, the big difference between melody and words is voice. I don’t mean vocal quality, but author voice.

AUTHOR VOICE

            There are a finite number of plots, then when you add in genre, it’s those same finite plots just with the face of a genre thrown in. However, what makes every single one of them unique is author voice.

            Author voice can’t be duplicated.

            What can be duplicated is the exact same place, characters, and phrasing. THEN it becomes plagiarism.

            That is so extremely rare as to be almost nonexistent.

            It can happen, but not often. I’ve never actually seen it.

            I have seen many movies that are basically the same thing, yet they’re tweaked enough to be considered different. Same plot, a lot of the same phrasing, but different actors. That’s about it.

            A lot of music is homogenized so it all sounds the same. Same phrasing, same intros, same basic structure. The vocals all have the same quality. The words all talk about the same things. The only differences are a few twists and turns in the basic musicianship and the vocal qualities. Oh, and even many of the album covers look the same. Yet, they’re all just different enough to get away with it.

            Author voice?

            The last thing you should worry about is if what you’re writing about has been done before.

            YES, IT HAS BEEN!

            The last thing you want to get hung up on is whether or not your story has been done before. What you need to concentrate on is writing what you feel, finding your own voice, but also finding your own characters. If you’re not using generic character names, fine. If you are, it might be a good idea to get on Google, or whatever, and look those names up and see if they’ve been used before. A name change might be a good idea!

            The best cure for your trepidation is to read. A lot.

            If you’re writing noir detective, read a lot of noir detective so you not only get a good feel for the genre, but have an idea what you can do so it isn’t a direct copy.

            It goes without saying if you are inspired to write a particular genre, you must love it enough for some reason to be influenced by it. That means, you probably know it well enough not to directly copy someone else. At least I hope not!

            A good healthy mix of genres isn’t such a bad thing either.

SUMMARY

            The fact is that everything is a cliché. What you need to do is figure out what you want to write and forget about the albatross hanging over your head called “am I original?” Nobody is in the big picture. However, everybody is in voice. In a way, that’s really the big picture.

            When someone browses books at the store or online, they go to the mystery section because they love mysteries. They aren’t looking for some unnamed genre that doesn’t exist. They expect mysteries. Think about it.

            Happy writing!

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