I often see critiques of pop culture that hate on “lack of originality” or something to that extent. While plagiarism is no doubt something to not ignore, the idea that being unoriginal is a reason to not try or to keep your mouth shut is just absurd to me.
This article spawned from 2 specific things: a conversation I was having with fellow author Freakshow and a message I got on that Sarahah app asking if I’d ever had an original thought. While I laughed at the latter, the former was a quick conversation but one I have strong feelings on and wish to explain.
The idea of originality is definitely something I think everyone should strive towards, but it is important to note that odds are in favor of not being so original. With so many people in the world it is very hard, if not impossible, to stand out among a crowd. But I want to talk about storytelling in particular because this is one where I’m almost certain originality and a good story are mutually exclusive.
You see humans have been telling stories for ages now. Back in ye olden days when TV and the internet didn’t exist people had to find other ways to entertain themselves. While theater and music were large sources of this entertainment, they served as a way to tell stories. That being said, most stories are treading ground we’ve already covered, you might just not have heard it yet.
Let me make two big notes here: Hollywood remakes are not some new phenomenon and of course I’m not saying Batman had been written prior to 1941. Let me elaborate.
First, remakes are just a retelling of stories but either with a new take or an updated take. Seriously just look at the Cinderella Wikipedia page if you are thinking otherwise. This is true for just about every folk tale or nursery rhyme or what-have-you.
Secondly, I’m not attempting to state the exact words you write or someone has written have previously been written; the base idea has already been thought of. Direct yourself to Batman’s Wikipedia page to read about the inspiration behind him only to find he was a big mashup of 1930s pop culture.
So what makes those two instances okay but something like the 2016 Ghostbusters movie unacceptable to the public at large? It is part nostalgia, but my theory (and belief) is that presentation and storytelling were just poor. How about I pitch it to you in the style of the 1990s narrator?
In a world where originality is bleak and Hollywood executives are looking to throw money at nostalgia, one man feels he knows the solution: presentation and storytelling. In 2017, a man took to a blog to explain to the readers that how you tell a story is more important that the story itself. Ironically, this idea wasn’t original either, but he presented it that way.
So yeah in other words if you write a good story and present it well you would be much better off. I see too many people getting upset at how they thought something was too predictable or unenjoyable due to the story already having being written/attempted before. My problem with the latter is how they’re asking a writer to have seen every movie ever and then come up with their own story. My problem with the former is someone is bound to predict the ending correctly, and while claiming that shouldn’t upset you, I at least understand why.
It ultimately just comes down to what experience you’re wanting to get and whether the story at hand is able to deliver upon that. So don’t set your expectations too high or you’ll find that nothing will ever measure up to them.