Sunday, March 19, 2017

On Originality

Several years ago, a young German author by the name of Helene Hegemann made waves by first writing and publishing an explosive first novel, then being called out as a serial plagiarist and then condemning the creative world as devoid of original ideas and thus making plagiarism -- or remixing -- the only viable option.

She's not repentant about it (being obviously more upset she got called out and vilified than for the original sin itself).

I might agree with her on one point: Remixing. That is if I can separate her idea of remixing -- taking words directly from other writers -- and making remixing the concept of taking a tried-and-true trope and making it your own through originality of expression, which I believe exists in spades no matter how many times the Epic Journey or the Retelling of Creation has been written about.

Take, for example, this piece of music:

It is utterly original, captivating, and familiar to just about everyone on the planet who hears it.

Then there's this version of it:

Same tune. Same notes. But done with enough of a twist that it sounds new. It takes the music from something you might listen to on a quiet summer's night and makes it into something you might want to run away from if you hear it coming from a shack in the middle of a swamp somewhere.

It's a tried-and-true trope, remixed. Which makes it original in my book.

Here's another example:

This is, inarguable, Judy Garland's song. Until you hear this version:

It's still that familiar song, but Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's remix of it makes it utterly his.

This is creativity. This is taking that familiar storyline and putting your own twist and turn on it to make it utterly yours, even if that same kind of story has been told over and over and over again.

It's what I aim to do with Doleful Creatures -- and I think it's possible, given some nagging thoughts that have come into my head over the past month as I've been thinking on this book again. I'm going to make a familiar story utterly mine.

Without cheating.

Without plagiarizing.

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