OR, Are Original Plots Over-rated?
I love Bollywood movies. I’ve only watched one, but they tell me there’s all the same (Apparently these movies tell the same stories over and over – a highly cynical view, I think). But I loved the one I watched – the emotional, over-the-top, tug-at-your-heartstrings cheesiness of it all. Which made me think – maybe original plots are somewhat overrated.
After all, I’ve read Lord of the Rings over and over, even though I know what was going to happen after the first time through (I could say the same for Howl’s Moving Castle). And I got out and watched or read almost every version of Pride and Prejudice I could get my hands on: the BBC version, Bride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones’ Diary, etc… I love to get all the different takes on the exact same plot.
Not to mention how many plots are based on the whole “Hero with a Thousand Faces” journey – Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, the Lion King. And no one would claim the plot of Avatar was original, but people flocked to see it anyway. Though I have to admit, this was one hit whose attraction I didn’t entirely understand.
I think we’re pre-programed to like certain plots that are familiar to use – the Cinderella plot, the hero’s journey, the struggle of characters in the face of incredibly odds – and people will watch and love these plots over and over again, no matter how old and clichéd they get. But at the same time that doesn’t entirely rule out the need for creativity. Every writer has to bring a new perspective or re-imagining of the old tale in some way, or it’s not worth writing. Go ahead, subvert readers’ expectations, take risks, throw in a twist. Experimenting is part of the fun of writing. But I’m starting to realize more and more that familiarizing oneself with a common set of “elements” already in use can be a useful tool for writers.