Think back to the last book you read or movie you watched, good or bad.
Now, think about the basic storyline of that book or movie.
When you boil it down to its most basic form, might the story you have in mind be giving you a little déjà vu?
Today, Barnes & Noble and the box office see few shifts in the basic foundation of stories. Yet with trailblazers the likes of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and William Shakespeare can you blame all of the writers who follow in their great footsteps? Iconic writers have just about nullified structural originality with their parables and plays, tragedies and triumphs.
In a recent article published in The Atlantic, entitled “All Stories are the Same,” writer John Yorke addresses the unintentional, by-the-book approach to storytelling. By comparing the archetypes of stories told throughout time, a basic formula to spinning a good yarn emerges. For there would be no Godzilla without Beowulf, no Avatar without Pocahontas, no Bridget Jones if not for Elizabeth Bennet.
Countless guidebooks on how to tell the best tales swear by various facets of originality. Yet love stories, however triangular, straight, or winding, always seem to be reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet.
So why are we content to rewrite the same scripts until they’ve run dry, like the vampire-werewolf craze of the early 2000s? Is it that we have grown comfortable in the happily-ever-after tales and pauses for suspense? Or is it that the classics created the formula and those that follow, the variables?
I think that the minds behind Noah’s Ark and Jane Eyre had a good thing going, so I see no harm in building off of their work with touches of technology, timely humor, and fantasy.
So how does an aspiring writer, like myself, achieve originality in a field built upon limited plots and themes? I believe that the creativity and substance lies in the details, the authenticity of character and conversation, and the wording of imagination.
Today, originality requires an unorthodox approach to classic tales retold.