Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Guest Post: Doesn't Anyone Write Anything Original Anymore?

This week's guest post comes from Barry Crowther, author of Missing (A Matt Spears Mystery). It was originally posted on Barry's blog in August, where you can read more wonderfully insightful and entertaining posts.

Does Anyone Write Anything Original Anymore?

This post is a little rough around the edges, it’s Monday morning and I’m a little hungover. Go figure…

Does Anyone Write Anything Original Anymore?I have worked on more than eight or nine novels over the last twelve years. Can’t even remember how many short stories I’ve pumped out. The most successful of the gaggle has been ‘Missing’ a Matt Spears Mystery.

IMHO This is a novel that lacks any real originality but strangely enough people love more than their shiny new iPad2′s. (I was going to put first-born here but first-borns have lost their luster, iPad’s have far more cache these days!)

Why is this? Why is Missing loved by one and all, with the exception of a few who I like to consider ‘not my target audience’?

It’s hard for me to answer that, I’m too close to the subject. So Let’s look at a recent comment directed at this novel from a lovely well-wisher:

“I have Simply pointed out that you (no doubt unconsciously) copied the plot of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”

The review was long winded and pretty boring but this remark, maybe it was off the cuff, really caught my attention. The comparison the commentator made was like some Jedi mind trick. Not because he was 100% wrong but because he seriously had a point. Let me expand below:
  • Dragon Tattoo is a story centered around a missing girl. So is Missing (that seems a bit obvious from title).
  • Dragon Tattoo has the hero Mikael Blomkvist tasked by the uncle of the missing girl to find her. Missing has the hero Matt Spears tasked by the uncle of the missing girl to find her also.
  • In Dragon Tattoo the uncle is a wealthy industrialist, in Missing he is a blind gangster. Both are central and charismatic.
  • Dragon Tattoo has the team of Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander (who has the dragon tattoo) searching for the girl using their various skill sets. Missing has Spears and Nathan Draper (no tattoos) searching for the girl using their various skill sets.
  • Blomkvist is a journalist. Spears is a debt collector. Salander is a computer hacker. Draper is a forensic accountant with considerable computer skills.
Okay, the list goes on if you keep probing. Coincidence?

This guy was also not the last reviewer to see similarities between the two, yet real Dragon Tattoo fans seem to think they are both plot driven but very different novels in their tone. Missing has a lot of humor where Dragon Tattoo has very little (none in fact, or I couldn’t find any).

Here’s the kicker. I did not read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo until I saw these reviews. I enjoyed it but there could have been no plot copying at all. I have not followed on the series either just in case some osmosis took place.

So how did this happen? Who knows, maybe a collective consciousness exists and we are all plugged into some matrix. I think I’m reaching here or my imagination is running riot. It is interesting though.

How many times have we come across a film or novel that we think has similarities or is blatant copying of other work? It happens. And there is this new phrase ‘the reimagining of’ like the Freddy Kruger franchise has recently been re-imagined, as has Halloween. How is this okay and straight out plagiarism not? The story is the same, the characters are the same, it’s just shot from a different angle with new actors. Seems to work though, both of the new re-imaginings have been well received.

Orson Welles said “It does not matter whether a work of art is fake or not. It matters whether it’s a good or bad fake.” I’m paraphrasing but I think I understand what he means.

Are Star Trek spin offs, prequels, origins, re-imaginings all just copies of a kind – fakes in other words? Maybe that’s the answer to my own question of how the ‘coincidences’ of Dragon Tattoo and Missing happened.

Nothing original is produced anymore because human nature points us in a direction (mystery genre, romance genre, sci-fi format, etc) … which ultimately means everything becomes the same, nature shapes it. And for some reason we love it that way.

All About Barry

Barry's first couple of attempts [at writing] were really good, well researched, excellently plotted and exquisitely crafted, so of course they never made it past an agent’s in-tray. Disappointingly, his latest offering has already been grabbed by some demented half-witted publisher who has chopped down a sizable clump of woodland to produce the paper which will be wasted in the printing of the piece of art called “Missing.” Actually no one’s really read it yet, but then again neither have the publisher or Barry – apparently he can’t abide to read his own work as he finds it distressing! He only needs to sell about 1000 copies for it to be considered a publishing success – and then, you never know. Maybe a film deal and maybe extra parts for all concerned (mooching about LA will beat smashing up a gaff in Salford – maybe not). So pass the word around: a partially educated FC United supporter has escaped from LH to LA and written a novel, and apparently it’s pretty good. Buy the book. Maybe there’ll be a film, maybe Eric Cantona will play the lead. Maybe it’ll get pulped…… He’s already working on the next Matt Spears book so it looks like he’s in for the long haul!

Check out his blog, pick up his book, and catch up with Barry on Twitter!


  1. Wow. That's crazy about Dragon Tattoo... I loved the whole series.

    I don't think I'd go so far as to say that nothing original is created anymore, particularly since one's writing voice is unique regardless of the plot points. But you make some great points. Makes me think of the Lady Antebellum song (Need You Now) that is far too similar to Rob Alan Parson's Project's hit...

  2. Hah, I loved your image of Madonna and who ever the younger clone is :P There's nothing new under the sun, indeed. But Orson Welles summed it up really well. A good book is a good book, no matter what it resembles.

  3. It certainly does seem that there's nothing original anymore. I've recently become a David Baldacci fan and have noted that his books (thus far), seem to rely heavily on masters of disguise. After the third one I wondered if he could even write a book worth reading if not for that aspect. But then I realized I'd keep reading because the stories are good and hold my attention.

    I'm very much aware of sameness when I write, and do try to throw in as many plot twists as I can (IF they fit), just to make it different than the thousands of other books just like it.

    Why do stories all seem unoriginal? I think it's because the publishing industry has a recipe for what they think works, and demand that their authors conform to it. This means that readers are conditioned to expect a certain order to the things they read...at least in my opinion.

  4. That's a very good point, Kristy. I definitely agree that the current publishing industry is very hesitant to branch out and try knew things, which is why a lot of indie reviews say "A fresh and exciting new take on such-and-such". But like you, a lot of my stuff is similar in some ways. I think it's because I write what I like to read.

    On the other hand, some stories can be so completely and insanely out of the box that they're just plain bad. So I think there's a fine line between "new and creative" and "what were they thinking".


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