Ari, the Danteshu Pope (ariseishirou) wrote,
Ari, the Danteshu Pope
ariseishirou

Changing Tastes

"Any idea can be good if done well."

"There are no new ideas."

"It's all in the execution."

What matters is not the originality of a story, but rather the skill of the storyteller. To an extent this is obviously the case, but as I get older and read/watch/play/generally consume more media I find increasingly that I enjoy something with a fresh, exciting concept and passable craft far, far more than than a trite, worn, pedestrian plot and stock characters given masterful execution. Good storytelling is, of course, greatly important and the quality of writing will still quite often make or break a story for me, but over the years I find myself tuning out of - or never bothering to start - something with a fill-in-the-blanks synopsis.

You're free to disagree with me, of course. I would have disagreed with me not so many years ago. But by now I've heard too many otherwise excellent writers intone the aforementioned truisms like some kind of talisman to ward off criticism for their lack of originality. If you're really all that hot shit, why not take a few minutes to come up with something that doesn't read like a mad libs game of TV Tropes? Surely after all that time spent polishing your craft, you've had a couple of creative ideas? ...Right?

And I'm not convinced there are "no new ideas." In fact, it's literally impossible for their not to be new ideas, given that there are an infinite number of stories to be told in the universe, and in the finite history of mankind there have been a finite number of stories. Even if you can't come up with something you've never seen before (or you do come up with something, but it turns out that someone else, at some point, has also done it) you can certainly come up with something less done than, say, "rag tag band of survivors of a zombie apocalypse in suburban America learns how to work together to overcome their differences... and discovers that not zombies, but humans, are their most terrifying foe!!!!." Just, try harder, man.

To reiterate: I'm not saying that craft isn't important, and that I won't read/watch something with a tired premise and a collection of archetypes that never wavers from the three-part, saving the cat structure if someone truly brilliant wrote it, I'm asking you: if you're really that brilliant, why didn't you write something else? Why didn't you, at the very least, deconstruct the hoary old ideas you're recycling? I'm at the point where, let's say for example, story A scores 8/10 in skill, 3/10 in originality, and story B scores 6/10 in skill and 9/10 in originality. Years ago, I absolutely would have preferred the former. Now I'd never get past the first five pages of A, if I even made it past the description on the back cover. Sure, story B's author isn't that great (yet), but at least she's fucking trying. How did you make it to an 8/10, author A, without a single interesting thought in your head? I might slog through your shit when you make it to 10/10 purely for love of the art, but if by that time B is at 8/10 skill and now at 10/10 ideas, you don't stand a chance.

At least put an original spin on what you're doing. As a recent example, I was coming up with characters with my roleplay group. One of the guys decided his character was going to be the lone survivor of two brothers in the event that tied us all together. As he first conceived it, his brother would have been the favourite and, woe is him, his parents always resented that he was the one who came back.

But, why.

Why?

I'll tell you why: it's the first thing that popped into his head. It's been done hundreds, if not thousands, of times before. That is the least original way you could go about that idea. There are any number of characters like that in all kinds of stories. My suggestion: make the survivor the favorite, instead. It's really that simple. He's always known that his parents were (secretly) relieved that he was the one who came back, and since he loved his brother dearly, he's wracked with guilt. Hey, now he has internal conflict, even! As opposed to purely external "his parents resent him, but he is blameless" woobifying, go-nowhere sad. Now, this guy was just spitballing ideas around a table for a private game. But why, skilled storyteller, are you doing with the first thing that pops into your head? It's lazy, and I'm calling you out on your laziness. Go ahead and be mad: search your feelings, you know it to be true.

Especially if you've mastered the rest of your craft, why are you phoning in this one part? Because it takes effort? Well, so did everything else about writing!

Be better.

(As a bonus, is there any concept that's so well-worn in the genre(s) you like that it's dead to you? As an action/thriller fan, "skilled, dangerous man must hurt people to save/avenge the death of his female" is dead to me. If I see that synopsis, I simply will not read/watch/play your creation. You could literally be the best writer who ever lived, I'm not kidding. I laughed out loud at John Wick's unsubtle dig at how utterly mindless, exhausted, unrealistic, and dehumanizing this story is - watch it if you ever get the chance.)
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  • 1 comment

thursiya

August 9 2015, 21:50:53 UTC 1 year ago Edited:  August 9 2015, 21:51:25 UTC

20-30-something, white, angry male with stubble and a gravely voice shows up in *any* significant role.

How do you wear a bra under that? Oh, I guess you don't.

Forbear was the epitome of awesome and then smart, capable, scheming individuals have unseated you from inherited privilege.

My character is irresistible to the opposite sex but for someone reason was forced into a career of hard labour and roughing it.

Science - who really cares?