Sunday, 6 January 2013

Day Six: On Originality

Just as a note: Sundays are kind of crazy at work, which doesn’t make for a great amount of focus when you’re trying to give serious thought to a novel. Because of that, I’m going to be posting short essays on writing and writer lifestyle. Just little things that I’m thinking about on a weekly basis, really. They will be appearing with day labels, but will have the “Writer-Babble” tag instead of the “Daily Post” tag.

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So, I kind of want to talk about originality and how it applies to this novel that we’re working on here.

When I’m not feeling particularly agitated or down about people, it is my sincere belief that no one who is serious about writing and publishing wants to be derivative or to copy someone else’s work. Creative people strive for originality. We don’t always pull it off, but it’s what we’re usually going for. As such, it’s something that matters to me whenever I proceed with a new project, and this one has brought me to this question:

Is this novel of mine an original thing?

There are multiple levels that you can ask that on. I mean, obviously, I’m not adapting something here. This isn’t someone’s screenplay or pitch that I’m working from. This idea, this plot, these characters…they all spring directly from my head, and function as my own creations. The only things that I’ve allowed to dictate anything when it comes to these posts so far, are the established dynamics of the Classical American Detective Novel. And even those will only bend so far as I move into plotting and further development. You can only remove Philip Marlowe so far from the sun-drenched Los Angeles of the 1950’s.

But is it an original concept? The idea of the first murder in space? Because, honestly, it occurred to me a couple of days ago that this is a really simple, straight forward science fictional idea, and it’s kind of leaving me edgy. You don’t want to do something that’s been done a million times, but has this? It seems so obvious, but I honestly don’t know.

I feel like there’s probably an episode of Star Trek where they mention the act as a form of precedent when Chekov gets put on trial for a crime he didn’t commit or something. Like they’ve just got a name and a date that they reference. Or maybe there’s, like, a Tom Baker Doctor Who episode, where the Doctor and Agatha Christie solve the first murder in space. I can’t think of any movies or books that are specifically about this, though. I’ve never read or watched anything. I’ve never heard of one. The only time I’ve ever come across, specifically, the phrase, “the first murder in space,” is in the opening of the 2004 computer game Nexus: The Jupiter Incident (which pays pretty much the same service to the concept as that hypothetical Star Trek episode I threw out earlier in the paragraph).

And, you know? I asked around to my co-workers this afternoon and none of them could think of any examples either.

So, uh, good show for me, I guess?

 

-Sean

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