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.