Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nothing New Under the Sun

How funny that when I saw the word of the day today I thought "Oh, I know what that is- but when did roleplay terminology make it into the dictionary?" How surprised was I when I clicked on the entry and found that the term meant something entirely different than the context I knew it in.

But that shouldn't really be surprising. What's that saying? Nothing new under the sun? It's a concept I've struggled with a long time. If these ideas have been done a million times before than why are mine any different?

The answer? They're not, really. Creativity isn't usually much more than a new spin on an old idea. When it comes down to it they're the same characters in the same roles with the same struggles and quests and story arcs. The difference? Those little twists and idiosyncrasies that come from seeing the same story through someone else's eyes.

I was recently describing a brief synopsis of the novel I plan to start writing in a few weeks to a friend and I found myself labeling it in terms of movies and stories it was similar to. And you know what's funny about that? I didn't mind.

My novel, at its basis, is like a whole lot of other stories that have already been told. And that, for some strange reason, doesn't bother me.

I used to talk about ideas I had or stories I was thinking and I'd get reactions of "Oh, this sounds like this book" or "Oh, that's just like the so and so movie that came out a few years ago". When I got those reactions I'd get all defensive- trying to come up with some reasons why my story was different, unique, a completely new creation.

But I realize now- maybe because I'm older, maybe because I've been through NaNoWriMo once and found that I didn't care how many ideas I recycled if it filled my word count- that there is nothing really "new". And if there was, we probably wouldn't get it anyway.

The reason we can so easily connect with stories and characters and quests is because they are familiar to us, because we have seen them before. That's what allows us to connect with them. Even in science fiction and horror and fantasy where the laws of physics may not apply or the creatures aren't human or the universe is strange we still find a way to connect because of the familiar parts. The protagonist's struggle, their desires, their needs, their confusion. We've seen it all before so we can put ourselves in their shoes without thinking twice.

I'd even argue that if there was something so new that there was nothing even remotely familiar about it there'd be no story because the audience wouldn't be able to attach. Like the art of schizophrenics- it's amazingly creative, but no one really connects to it because that world is too foreign and alien to us, we can't see ourselves inside.

So whether mana is rechargeable magic needed to cast spells or another way to think of energy or someone's soul or the name of some random alternative rock group doesn't really matter- chances are some will recognize it. And in the end, that's a good thing.

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