Thursday, January 10, 2013

On Originality

When it comes to creating an original work of art, it's hard to know where to draw the line. You can go chasing after uniqueness to the point where you're just being original for originality's sake. I believe that there should be a point in the middle where you make an effort to differentiate yourself while remaining true to your vision. In other words, create something that makes YOU happy, and then add your own personal touches to it.

I live the Portland, OR area, so let's use a famous local institution as an example: Voodoo Doughnuts. Their base product is a doughnut. They haven't created some revolutionary new form of dessert that combines recycled rubber mulch with fried pine cones and used motor oil. No, it's a flippin' doughnut. Everyone makes and sells doughnuts. Have been for many, many years. The difference is in what the folks at Voodoo do WITH that doughnut, from the unique toppings (grape dust?) to their public image.

Mmm donut
To use another example, I love stories - in both novel and movie form - that follow the "Hero's Journey" pattern. Basically, the hero starts off in an ordinary situation, goes off on an adventure, and then returns, usually as a person that has changed for the better. I've been a huge fan of these kinds of stories ever since I saw Star Wars, and read The Hobbit, as a kid. So with Secret of the Songshell, I wanted to follow that same pattern, to create a tale that I would myself enjoy; but at the same time, I incorporated elements from my own life to give my story personal relevance as well as its own unique flavor.

Like the doughnut, there's nothing new about the Hero's Journey archetype. But the reason why they both endure is that they work. Even variations on the doughnut follow the same basic recipe. A snack made out of recycled rubber mulch probably wouldn't be very enjoyable. So if you love three-chord punk-pop music or cheesy romance novels, don't worry that they've both been done before. If that's what inspires you, follow your gut, and then sprinkle your own grape dust on top of it. (You can always make fried pine cones with your side project.)

No comments:

Post a Comment