Monday, October 4, 2010

Original Thought and Why It's Magic

I don't know why, but it seems that most shows I like watching air on USA. Either that, or the marathons of shows I like air on USA, which is good enough. As a result of this, I've seen my share of television show marathons on USA and more than my share of advertisements of marathons on USA. This has resulted in one opinion in my mind: I want to find the person who makes the marathon ads for USA and slap them. Why? They reuse the same stuff over and over again. The ads are just cannibalized material from the old ads.

(I'm probably the only person who gets this worked up about ads, but I'll judge the advertisement for anything, even a product I don't consume, so judging a marathon commercial is no stretch for me.)

When I say these ads are all the same, I mean that for any marathon of a specific show, it will use the same specific clips and make the same specific jokes. I can tell you which clip and/or joke per show too. (I should probably be more embarrassed about that for myself, but right now I'm channeling that into being frustrated about them. Moving on...)

This gets old.

It's the same with books. Now, I'm not talking about book trailer cliches, because I don't think people have been making book trailers long enough for their to be book trailer cliches, but in books in general, there's the same risk these marathon trailers run.

There are cliches in genres. That character that shows up in every book. That plot that shows up in every book. That object that shows up in every book. And they get old. Eventually, people familiar with the genre tend to roll their heads when these people/places/plots show up.

Not everyone will mind. People not familiar with the genre won't see the glaringly cliche quality of the idea in question. It'll see new to them. Just like, I'm sure, the people who never watch USA marathons won't recognize that clip as appearing in every ad, these people won't recognize that "plot twist" as occurring in every story. Whereas, if you watch a lot of marathons/ read a lot in that genre, you just think "Oh, cherry tomatoes, not that again."

New ideas are nice, because they keep things interesting, especially for the people who've been around the block before. When you write, you've got to accept that the people who'll probably buy your book are going to be people who read, and probably people who read a lot, probably in that genre, which means they'll have seen it all before, so they'll notice the cliches. (And, even if all the readers aren't huge fans of the genre enough to notice, an agent will probably have read enough books to see the repetitions and rehashes for what they are.)

Original storylines, characters, and conflicts keep things interesting for readers, especially those who've been around the block a time or twenty. Let's keep it fresh. :)

Do you often find yourself coming across plots/settings/characters/conflicts that you feel like you've seen and read before? How did it make you feel? Would you stop reading a book if it felt too cliched?


  1. OH MAN! I HATE commercials. It's all the same. I totally agree with you and get so worked up. I mean, seriously? They can't think of anything better?

    Unfortunately, you can recognize a lot in many books - even the supposedly fresh ones. I think you can use old ideas as long as you make the old ideas fresh. If that makes sense?

  2. Definitely important to attempt to be original. Easier said than done, though. :)

  3. Yes and no. If characters seem clichéd I give them a chance to become original during the course of the book - I figure there has to be reason why they are there.

  4. Oh jeez, don't even get me started on commercials.

    And it depends. If the characters seem just like characters I've read before and loved, then I'll usually keep reading. But if they're annoying ones I've read before, then I can't stand it.
    Same goes for plot.

    I suppose the standard is I'll read more of what I like, and if you can make me freak out with an awesome twist, 1000 bonus points.

  5. Melissa -- I understand. If you can take an old idea and make it fresh, you've succeeded. If it feels like the same old idea, that's your problem.

    Susan -- Definitely easier said than done.

    Elaine -- Every deserves a chance. I just worry sometimes that chance goes to waste.

    Vader -- I think that's a fair point. People go farther if they love something. I know I read what I like. Nice summation.