Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Been There, Done That

by Mindy McGinnis

It took me a long time to admit that I'm really not that creative.

And guess what? Neither are you.

I read. A lot. It's kind of my job. A necessary by-blow of this has been that I've realized the old adage that all the stories have been told is... true. I can't tell you how many times I've opened up boxes of books (Yay!) only to glance at the back-cover material and realize it's been done before. A running mental commentary might run something like this (this isn't referencing any actual books, FYI, so don't go racking your brains trying to figure out what I'm referring to):

Okay, so this one is Hunger Games but set in Bulgaria and using cats.
Oh look! Turner & Hooch but with a dinosaur.
Hey! Romeo & Juliet but with a crustacean and a pearl hunter.

You get the idea. But here's the thing... the Romeo & Juliet title featuring the really attractive crustacean might have the zippiest dialogue this side of the Pacific, and it just might bring me to tears a lot faster than angsty Italian pre-teens with excellent wardrobes quaffing poison.

We've all been in love, we've all suffered loss. We all continue to learn from others and seeing the world through a pair of eyes that we weren't born with will always be a useful experience, even if the plot isn't the brightest star that ever rolled itself up into a gas ball.

Every time Mindy-Brain says, "Hey! I've got an idea!" I have to ask Mindy-Brain how it's been done before (not IF!), and how I can do it differently, give it the Mindy-Spin and make it Mindy's-Story instead of, Bogus! It's Jurassic Park with manic Dodo birds!

Always remember that your job as a writer isn't necessarily to come up with something that has never, ever been done, but to find a way to tell it again - your way.

6 comments:

  1. SO TRUE, Mindy. It's nigh on impossible to come up with something that's never been done - the originality lies in how you tell it, in how you stamp your thumbprint on your work. I only wish I'd realised this years and years ago - it would have saved me a lot of worry! :oP

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  2. Agreed! Not only is the originality in the retelling but also in the writing style too. Wait. Hunger Games with cats?? Me, like. :)

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  3. Thanks ladies! I agree, having the realization early on has helped learn to not focus so hard on being dazzlingly original, as opposed to taking a story and making it MINE. :)

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  4. Timeless and true advice, Mindy (and I happen to be partial to manic Dodo birds).

    :-)

    Nicole

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  5. I like this sea-based R&J too! Love this post!

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  6. I love this post, Mindy. Whatever ideas are out there are basically spin offs of *other* ideas. Thanks for the write-up!

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