So asketh my cousin’s wife in regards to my earlier post in regards to mainstream fiction.
Well, I wrote that particular blog under concerns, mirrored in this Huffington Post article, about the average reading level of high school students and how mainstream books are following that trend. As I responded to her as such:
“…my concern is that, with studies released on our educational system that report that high school reading skills are averaging at a fifth grade reading level, and modern mainstream books are following the tread, it downright frightens me. I probably wouldn’t have as much of an issue if those books were written at a more age-appropriate manner.”
But there’s always another side to every coin, and the coin I like to carry (other than the dollar coins which annoy some merchants–Suzie B.’s are my favourites) is the one of originality. Originality’s obverse is usually coincidence, it seems, or at least slated up as coincidence.
For a personal example (and many of my friends and associates have already heard this story), The introduction to Sin’s Tethers was different than what is in the final draft; in the first three drafts, since 2005 when we started writing it in novel form, it had remained virtually unchanged.
And then, late 201o, I began reading Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. (Recommended! Read! Now! Ellen at Children’s Book Cellar has it in stock!) I got through the first page, put the book down, and dropped an “F” bomb. Coincidentally, the first page was almost verbatim to the introduction of Tethers, excluding character and place. No way Ms. Fisher could have known about our manuscript, and I sure as Unicron’s severed head wasn’t going to allow something that could be, in theory, questioned for plagiarizing. I had my husband and Jenny both check it, as well as Jenny’s step-son and my art student look at both the book and the manuscript just to ascertain that no, I wasn’t paranoid, and they all had a similar reaction. My answer? Rewrite, and I’m glad we did, because it’s a lot smoother and better than before.
Recently I was reading another book on how to submit to agents, and came across a reference to how Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series was original. That was the point where I returned the book to the library. My reasoning: I found that statement factitious. Why? Because I’ve read Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake books (up to Narcissus in Chains.) The first book, Guilty Pleasures, was written in 1993. (We also have Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries, starting up in 2001. And [thanks to a friend from the library for pointing this one out] The Vampire Diaries, which preceded them all in 1991, although that follows two vampires and a human, but I digress.) Because I had read Anita Blake books, to me, the Twilight books were not, in my opinion, original. They both followed a similar plot line–human in love triangle between vampire and werewolf, all must work together to destroy Big Bad, and throw some romantic tension in there for good measure. It’s actually a common plot in many books with a romantic slant, minus the preternatural creatures: two rivals and the woman they love, forced to work together to overcome a challenge, and then the woman chooses one rival but remains friends with the other/they all hook up in a threesome/they all go to the pub to have a pint until the whole thing blows over. I’d like to know what Bram Stoker thinks of the whole ordeal, actually. (Technically, I read that before LKH, but I consider that in its own league of untouchable awesomeness.)
Another point of originality: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Again, in the aforementioned post, I had expressed that, while better-written than Twilight, it still had a main character whom I wanted to be first in line for an all-you-can-eat buffet for Stormbringer, even knowing that, as it was written from first person, she wouldn’t meet her just dessert. (I’ll admit: I loved Rue. Only character, other than Prim’s cat, whom I could feel any sort of positive emotion for.) In 2006, when Hubs was doing his first Trek Across Maine, I came across a bootleg of Battle Royal, filmed in 2000, and watched it twice on a stormy Friday night. (Thank you, Anchor Bay, for finally releasing it Stateside!) Premise: teenage children are sent to a televised battle to the death, one man standing takes all. The movie was, as I learned later, based on a book of the same title, written in 1999 by Koushun Takami. The ending was nearly in both Battle Royal and Hunger Games. (I won’t go into it–to quote River Song, “Spoilers!”) But the basic premise–televised battle to the death, as I was reminded–was explored in The Running Man by Richard Bachman, in 1982.
The argument is truly nonexistent: the fact is, those whom had experienced a particular piece of work first is going to find others similar as pale imitations, regardless what had come first. It’s like arguing which Doctor is the best. I’ll always say Tom Baker. Another point: look at all the Sentai spin-offs. There will always be a special place in my heart for Tommy, the Green Ranger, even though Mighty Morphin Power Rangers had been blatantly Sabanized from Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger. But I had seen MMPR first. Sunshine Superman, even though Donovan had wrote the song, I find the Salvation version better, because I had heard it first. One cannot help that others hadn’t read or seen a previous premise.
The Wicker Man should always be the exception. The remake should have been struck from existence–it was seriously lacking in beautiful Scandinavian women singing in the nude. Not to mention plot. And Christopher Lee. Everything is better with Christopher Lee.
But I digress.