You know, when I was in film school, it was all about being super deep. Everyone worshipped “Memento” and “Fight Club”. David Lynch was viewed as some sort of deity.

But you know what, there’s a reason why “Avatar” is the highest-grossing movie of all time. And it’s not just because of 3D or because James Cameron has more money than God.

No, it’s because he took a bunch of familiar character tropes, mixed them up in a blender with “Dances With Wolves”, made a very tantalizing dish out of it and served it to an audience hungry for exactly that sort of thing.

…why is that bad?

Hint: it’s not.

We live in a world where there is much emphasis on absolute originality in creative pursuits. If you make a story and some character or plotline has already been done, everyone sees it as some sort of grave unfortunate error. But the truth is that that’s how stories work.

As a storyteller my job is first to entertain you and secondly to hopefully teach you something. Both of these things are best done by allegories, fables, and parables. By the familiar hero that is almost like us, if maybe we were just a little more brave. By the familiar character arc that is almost like our own, if we had been born a little different. In that world that is almost like our own, if you hold a funhouse mirror up to it. That’s where you make emotional connections and that’s where you tell the best stories.

Yesterday I watched “Elf“. It was completely unoriginal. But it was thoroughly entertaining, it made me laugh, the ending made me go “awww”, and I loved every minute of it. That’s what movies and stories are supposed to do.

Guys, if you’re a writer or a dreamer or an artist or what-have-you, and your goal isn’t to make the next “Ulysses” but to make the next “Warcraft: The Last Guardian”, then stand up and be proud. Who cares if you’re not super hardcore or deep? Who cares that students won’t have to BS their way through long papers about your work sometime in the far future? You made someone’s day a little better.

I would rather make the next “Elf” than the next “Apocalypse Now”. And I’m not afraid to admit it.

6 Responses to “Storycrafter’s Pride Parade”
  1. krizzlybear says:

    For me, it’s not so much about writing “the next x.” As you’ve probably already known, pike, I’m more of the persuasion of “x meets y.”

    And re: unoriginality. yes, yes, yes, a billion times yes! It’s not about the tropes that you use, but how you USE them. how you play with them, and how they play with other tropes that you decide to use.

  2. Will says:

    I want to be an author one day, a novelist. I want to write science fiction, fantasy, and maybe a western here and there. I’ve had this goal for a while now, and in all the time that I’ve had it, not once have I wanted to be as revered as Isaac Asimov, J. R. R. Tolkien, or Zane Grey.

    Would it be nice to have any possible future works cited as one of the greats? Sure. But what I *really* want is to one day go to a bookstore and see my name on a cover somewhere in with the mass-market paperbacks. I don’t care about being the next Robert Jordan or Louis L’amour. I just want to write stuff that regular people will enjoy and help them escape from the stresses of real life for a while.

  3. Angelya says:

    Thanks Pike, this made me feel better about enjoying reading and writing crappy fan-fic – because I enjoy writing something light, about places and events that are familiar to people.
    The real trick with writing is to write _something_, am i right?

  4. Vespers says:

    I deeply care if anyone is the next Robert Jordan; if any author I like that much keels over before he’s finished again, I will dig them up and kill them again. At least once, maybe twice. ARGH.

    And yes, I enjoy schlock as much as I enjoy deep. Schlock is awesome. Fight Club was an amazing movie, but so was Iron Man!

  5. Wulfa says:

    Yay! All the “great” fiction (well, not all of it) just has no appeal for me. I like the campy stuff-it takes me far away from wherever I am at the moment and allows me to escape. War and Peace? No escaping.

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