My car was in the shop this week. The wheel bearings or something needed to be replaced (I know a shit ton about cars), so we dropped if off Monday night, and my husband caught a ride to work the next day leaving me his vehicle to drive.
My daughter was really excited about this change-up. It’s usually a struggle to get her to get into my car, but on this day, there was no fight. We were, “Riding in Dayee’s truck!”
It’s particularly difficult to get her to leave school because the lobby is full of books, a wagon, and puzzles, and she wants to stop and play with everything.
But when I went to pick her up, she ran straight to the door and waited for me to catch up with her. She was ready to roll.
“Go to the TRUCK Mommom!”
The sequence of events, the errands, the day’s destinations were all the same, the only thing different was the vehicle. But she didn’t know that; she was excited!
Isn’t everything kind of like that?
We want something new, or at least new to us, to break up the monotony of our days, our lives, our stories, our entertainment.
I’ve been frustrated for years with the story recycling going on in Hollywood. Are they out of new ideas? They must be. They’ve made The Hulk…three times now?
The most recent example of annoying recycling that comes to my mind is the movie Stolen.
I imagine the brainstorming session for that movie went something like this:
How about, instead of Taken, we call it Stolen?
Oh yeah, that sounds good. That movie did well. Instead of Liam Neeson, we’ll cast Nicolas Cage and set it in New Orleans instead of Europe.
Ooo, slam dunk and a budget cut; find and replace on the Taken script and repackage that mofo.
This kind of obvious, lazy recycling bugs me.
I had a similar experience reading recently.
I use my neighborhood library a lot, and they have a whole section dedicated just to books that are currently on the New York Times Bestseller list. I pick up at least one or two of these at each visit. Sometimes I finish the books, and sometimes I don’t.
By the end of the first chapter of this book, I was about to stop reading because it was pulled straight from Forrest Gump. The running scene. Forrest runs to the mailbox, to the edge of town, across America. He runs until his beard is this long…
The main character in the book gets a letter from an old friend. He writes back, and starts walking to post the letter. He walks to the mailbox. He keeps walking. He’s old but he decides to keep walking across the country in attempt to save his friend from cancer. He learns about himself along the way. The media catches wind of his journey; people join him. They ruin the whole journey for him for a while, but he finishes the walk, says goodbye to his friend and to some other baggage he’s been carrying around for 20 years.
The entire time I was reading it, all I could think was, “I…just…felt like…running.”
But I finished it.
It wasn’t a terrible book, but the vehicle and changes to the whole foundation of the idea were just not different enough for my taste. Had I written it, I would have included Forrest Gump and his quote about shoes in my dedication.
I guess my point is, don’t get lazy in your influences and borrowing. We all do it, and anyone who writes anything will struggle with the reality that we’re all just trying to find a different way to say things that have already been said.
Or maybe this is exactly the key to getting on the NYT Best Seller List.
Beg, steal, and borrow.
What do I know, I have published no books.
Some people borrow so artfully and so obscurely that you don’t recognize the reference or the influence. Something to strive for in my own writing instead of complaining about it, I suppose.
Have you seen any distracting borrowing lately in your reading or entertainment?
Lena Dunham and her grosser version of Sex and The City is up for grabs here.