Ha, how cliche is this title?
I’ve been thinking a lot about cliches over the last couple of weeks. Now that I’m (finally) trying to work out an overall plot for my new project, the phrase, “THAT’S SO BLOODY CLICHE” has been reverberating around my head more than any other (except possibly “I’m hungry”).
I’ve got no idea how many times I’ve embarked on the plotting of a new story, and I think every single time has been different. Sometimes it all comes out in a frantic fever-dream of creativity (or so I’ve heard), sometimes it’s a sudden coming-together of this idea and that concept, sometimes it’s a series of evenings sitting down with a whiteboard and trying to connect a few sparky dots in your head.
This time, I’ve mostly nicked stuff from my friends.
In the past, I’ve usually played my story cards very close to my chest until I have a draft I’m happy to share. However, in the past when I’ve shared it at this written stage – when it is, to my mind, maybe 80% complete – some careful, honest, supportive friend has gently said, “But you know this decision she makes at the end of chapter one, which triggers everything that happens after? Don’t you think she’d do this instead?” and you look into their gentle, trying-to-help eyes, smile knowingly, pat them on the head and say, “…shit.”
So I’ve learned, guys. This time, I cornered my partner (also a writer), stole his whiteboard, explained all my disconnected ideas and thoughts to him, and then wrote down everything he said and passed it off as my own original thinking. This done, I bat-signalled (read: facebook messaged) two writer friends from my Creative Writing Masters, explained the outline I alone (ahem) had come up with and again wrote down everything they said and am now passing it off as my own original thinking. And you know what? Turns out my own original thinking is good.
And this is hardly a groundbreaking approach. Pixar, the Masters of Storytelling (if you don’t agree with me I will fight you), have been doing this for years, and, you know, they’ve done alright out of it.
To nobody’s surprise, this has been enormously helpful. Not only does it help to give me some perspective on how worthwhile my own ideas are, it pushes me to think in directions I wouldn’t have considered on my own. Plus, you know, plagiarism.
So that’s where I’m at this month. Feeling more positive, more original, and more like I’m onto something…with a little help from my friends.