An Oscar Winning Performance

Hollywood hosted its 90th Academy Awards event last week – a night for the stars to shine. No, I didn’t watch the show, nor did I care to. However, I did see three of the films that were nominated for this year’s Best Picture.

I’ve noticed something about Hollywood in the past few years. Sometimes it seems as if they run out of ideas, therefore they do remakes of older films. A few that come to mind are Death Wish, Murder on the Orient Express, and True Grit.

I haven’t seen all the remakes (the preview alone of True Grit was enough for me). While there are exceptions, I find in most cases the original film is best. While the cinematography for the recent remake of Murder on the Orient Express was amazing, it’s hard to beat the performances of Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, and others in the 1974 film. (Johnny Depp being the exception.)

There is no comparison between the 1957 film Twelve Angry Men starring Henry Fonda and a 1997 made for cable movie. Could you imagine someone trying to remake Casablanca? And don’t even get me started on how most movies compare to books!

Speaking of books, I attended a writer’s workshop several years ago in which the speaker said, “There are no new ideas under the sun.” He went on to give a few examples. The most surprising to me was the Home Alone stories. Supposedly, the writer was inspired after reading the encounter of when Jesus’ parents left the twelve-year-old boy in the temple.

As a new writer, this sounded a bit discouraging, but at the same time, I was certain I had lots of new ideas as I’m sure every author does. But think about it…

Consider the average romance novel. Girl meets boy. They fall in love, but there’s a conflict – often another woman who wants to latch her claws onto the hero. But in the end, love conquers all and the hero and heroine end up together.

Or a mystery/suspense story. A crime is committed, or a mystery is involved. The protagonist faces danger from the antagonist. There are twists and turns, clues dropped along the way, and the reader is uncertain as to the identity of the villain until the end. But in most cases, good triumphs over evil and the mystery is solved.

No matter what the genre is—science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, etc.—most stories follow a pattern. Yet each year, tens of thousands of people read books and keep coming back for more.

What’s a writer to do? Take your story and put in on paper (or the computer). So what if the general idea has been done before. Finish that first draft, then rewrite, revise, edit, polish. Make it the best it can be. Seek help from critique partners, beta readers, editors. And then publish.

Who knows? You might win an award or two, but remember, not every film wins an Oscar. Not every book grabs a Pulitzer Prize or goes on the NYT Best-Seller list. But when you build up a group of faithful readers, they’ll keep coming back for more.

Had it been up to me, I would have picked another winner for this year’s Best Picture. Likewise, your readers don’t care whether you’ve won an award. They just want to read your books.

However, we do have an obligation to make our books the best they can be and deliver an Oscar-winning performance.

34 thoughts on “An Oscar Winning Performance

  1. Pingback: Basic Plots: Rebirth | Story Empire

  2. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links | Staci Troilo

  3. You made some wonderful points in this post, Joan. And, it is true that there is nothing new under the sun. The uniqueness comes from us, the writer because we are the only one who can tell the story from our perspective and in our voice. It’s like our fingerprint.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I didn’t watch the Oscars. I’m not a fan of awards show, although I did watch the year Return of the King was nominated, just to see LOTR rake in all those awards. I haven’t seen any of the nominated movies but would like to give Murder on the Orient Express a try.

    As for writing, I’ve always heard there are only x-number of plots, and we all spin them differently. I like what Irene said about giving 10 writers the same general idea. I agree they’d come up with 10 different books. The Friday Fic prompts we do are pretty much proof of that.

    No doubt we would all love to achieve the accolades of a NY Times best-selling author, but as writers we simply strive to tell the best story we can. Anything that might come as a result of that is an extra bonus 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the way to look at it, Mae. We write because we love to write – regardless of whether or not we’ll ever make the NYT list. LOTR was the last movie I watched that won best picture. I’ve seen a few a the nominees since but my favorites almost never win.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. If you think of stories, parables you heard in Sunday school, these stories are still relevant; everyone walks by the homeless person on the pavement until the good samaritan comes along… how many families have a prodigal son… But there must be tales unique to time and place and fact is often stranger than fiction. In one of my novels published two years ago the character works in a small cathedral city, Salisbury in Wiltshire. She and her lover enjoy strolling around the cathedral green and the water meadows with views that John Constable painted – never would I have imagined a murder attempt on a Russian double agent and many locals fearing they have been contaminated by a deadly nerve agent! The Twenty First Century has brought us new stories artificial intelligence, climate change etc. I’m sure authors are creating new tales all the time, why can’t film makers do the same!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good point. As time changes and new technology evolves, we have so many opportunities for new ideas. Fifty years ago, not many people would have thought of terrorist plots or mass shootings. Today (sadly) both have become all too common. I agree, filmmakers have a great opportunity if they would only take heed.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Never even mention a revamp of Casablanca. We don’t want to give Hollywood any (bad) ideas.

    I didn’t care for the new Murder on the Orient Express. That was the only film on the list that I’d seen. I understand that Water movie that won is a take on Beauty and the Beast. I didn’t see it and probably won’t.

    Yeah, you can distill plots down to just a few major types. I’ve actually thought about writing posts on the subject. But in the end, it’s the details that matter, right? That’s why so many different stories are written and published every day. Great insights, Joan.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I didn’t see Water (and probably won’t). The three nominated films I saw were all based on true stories (Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, and The Post). And yes, a revamp of Casablanca would be sacrilege.

      Good point – it’s the details the in the story and each writers style that make each book unique.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s all about the personal take and twists that we do. I keep thinking about the theater masks of Comedy and Tragedy. Many people believe everything can be boiled down to one of these two categories. Though, I think it’s better to say a positive or negative story.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s a good point, Charles. I would hardly categorize stories only as either comedy or tragedy. (Hey, remember the old MASH tv show? It was classified as a “dramady” with both comedy and drama and they did it well – going out on top after eleven seasons.) But you are right, a story can probably be classified as either positive or negative. There may be ups and downs, but the end determines.


      • I would actually put MASH as a comedy. The main intention of it was to make people laugh and then came the social commentary. Dramedy is a fairly new term though, which I don’t fully get. Comedies have always had some dramatic elements like in ‘Midsummer’s Night Dream’. It’s considered one of Shakespeare’s comedies, but it does have stuff to say about relationships.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I agree completely! I never watch the Oscars (or any other awards show, for that matter). I tend not to agree with their choices, much less their winners. Lol! Those who win aren’t necessarily the ones who bring in the most money. When I write, I don’t write with the idea of winning a prize. I don’t write using a formula that might win an award. I write what I love, knowing that there are readers who will love it as well. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • I’m with you, Yvette. I don’t watch those awards shows and most of the time don’t agree with their choices of winners. Always best to write what we love. If we try to force a type of writing we don’t like it will show and the outcome will be sub-par.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: An Oscar Winning Performance | Nesie's Place

  10. Amen to that, Joan!
    I believe that if you’d give ten writers the exact same general idea and tell them to write a story out of it, they’d come up with ten different books.
    Only think about Jane Austen fan fiction. How many different versions of Elizabeth and Darcy’s happily ever after can be written? And yet Janeites keep begging (literally begging) for more!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Once in my writer’s group (when we were more of a “how to” group), I have a story prompt and five different people came up with five different ideas. Each one was unique.

      I accidentally stumbled upon Fanfiction a few months back. I was surprised at the number of stories written by one of my favorite TV shows. Most of them I liked better than the outcome of the regular show. And although the show has been off the air for more tan ten years, people keep writing about it.

      Liked by 1 person

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