I’ve Seen that Movie Too
I refer to what I write as speculative fiction. Not as in the “speculative fiction” of the masters such as Harlan Ellison, Philip K. Dick, or Kurt Vonnegut; for that I would have to be good. But I do, in my writing, attempt to explore the thought process of the ordinary human by placing ordinary humans in unconventional situations. And yes, by situation I generally mean some science fiction or fantasy type anomaly.
Recently I’ve been toiling away on just such an opus featuring human conflict and a science fictiony anomaly. (Note 1) The characters in my story are confronted with all sorts of dilemmas and my gimmicky anomaly provides the proper amount of fuel for their angst. Of course, the reality of the story is that the sci-fi gimmick is really nothing more than a gimmick. It is how the characters interact that is really important. I know this to be true yet…
As I have alluded to in a previous post, I don’t write 24/7. I wish I could, but I can’t. I have a 9 to 5 job, plus several other obligations from which there is no escape. I consider it a good week when I can write 2/7. This includes blogs, which I consider a therapeutic necessity when the other writing isn’t going anyplace.
I beg for patience, there is a point, of sorts.
As I said my opus does not depend upon the gimmick of a single cool idea yet…
I indulged in a non-writing re-charge moment, sometime referred to as vegetating, that involved some television. In my defense, it was quality TV – un-huh, something you can binge watch on Netflix.
And there it was; a plot twist so brilliant that I could have written it! Actually, I had, or was in the process of writing it. My opus! It had been encapsulated as episode #4 of Season #3. What could I do now? It was a little discouraging to say the least.
Naturally, I believe that we really do stand on the shoulders of those who went before us, but did they have to take my idea and put it on TV? Worse than that, they did a really good job.
Now, the truth is that variations of my “brilliant” idea have already appeared many times over in many different stories, yet I could always justify myself by pointing out the many differences. But this TV show was so well done and so close to the direction that I was attempting to take my story that I found myself wishing that it, the TV version, had been my story.
I’d like to be able to say that at this point I came to my senses and the realization that no two executions of so-damn-close-to-the-same-idea are ever exactly alike and that my version still had plenty of new wrinkles to offer readers. (As in “readers” not too-damn-tired–to-care-any-more-at-the-end-of-the-day TV viewers, such as myself.) I would like to be able to say that I picked myself up and planted myself in front of the keyboard. Unfortunately, that would be a lie. I watched the next episode to see what happened.
Intellectually I know that my characters are in a different situation and live in a different world, even if both worlds do happen to have the same damnable device. But the key to my story isn’t the gimmick of the device, the key is how we identify and empathize with the plight of the characters, and that we care what choices they make and what happens to them. That knowledge alone should be enough to get me going again, and the truth is that it will. In fact, what will happen is that I’ll learn from what I saw. I’ll knock off a few more previously unnoticed technological loopholes, strengthen some strong points, edit away some weak points, perhaps eat a Snickers bar and then get back to work.
Note 1: One of the reasons I prefer to write in English is that we can easily invent new words. A lack of any real mastery of any other language would be a close second as to why I prefer English.