While studying my MA in Creative Writing, I was told that there are only seven stories in the world. These include Overcoming the Monster (Jaws), The Quest (The Goonies) and Rags to Riches (Oliver Twist). If you really think about it, this is probably true. 90% of the rom coms you have seen are the same plot – just in a different setting or century. Most horror films follow a very generic pattern.
This is obviously a gutting realisation for us writers. It makes you question every idea you come up with, whether it has been done before and – judging by this small fact – it will have been. You start to question yourself and your talent, and it’s only a matter of time before you have to ask: is there nothing original left to say?
It has become more evident of late that there is little originality in the world when you look at the films that Tinseltown is churning out – notably sequels, prequels and remakes. There are oodles of them. Big studios seemed too scared to invest in anything remotely original. Are writers roped into the idea that only sequels sell? Is it genuinely what they want to write? Is there nothing original left to say?
It has now even spread to music. Everyone famously remembers Robin Thicke and co. being sued for their Marvin Gaye rip off in the form of Blurred Lines. Then Ed Sheeran appeared in the news also accused of ripping off Marvin Gaye (has MG got a greatest hits out or something?). Many have followed, including Ariana Grande; Little Mix recently reached number one with a song that sounds very much like G.R.L’s Ugly Heart (no lawsuit as yet though).
For all we know these artists have never heard these other songs before (particularly those who don’t write their own music). It could be a complete coincidence. Does this mean it’s only a matter of time before all the available chords/tunes/lyrics in the world are used up? Are we already there? Artists are even taking their cue from Hollywood by brazenly re-releasing tracks and calling them their own, such as Jonas Blue daring to ruin the classic Fast Car and Cheat Codes’ awful Turn me on. These songs do well in the charts and I fear that the originals will be forgotten as the younger generation may never hear them – instead sticking to the chart: the “popular” music sold to them on music channels, social media and via radio.
Is this how we become original? We re-use the same stories, songs and ideas for different generations and pray they don’t find out? I hope not. I will always fight to find something new and fresh to watch, write or enjoy. It is probably why I have so much trouble putting pen to paper. I obsess over the idea of creating a new horror legend to compete with Freddy Krueger or I puzzle over how to write a play about a family at breaking point from a new angle.
However, all is not lost. There are artists, writers and other creatives who will fight to bring something original to the table. Or at least they will take an old story and turn it so completely on its head that the audience will never know it’s a “rip-off”. There will always be musicians who are passionate about writing new songs, independent film makers who will always take a chance on a new script and authors who will always look for that one story that will grab a publisher’s eye.
What do you think? Is there nothing original left to say?
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