Monday, February 4, 2008

Upping the Tried and True

Last night I watched the commentary on Season 1 of the hit show, Heroes, from creator Tim Kring and it got me thinking. He talked about how he wanted to do a “superhero” show but since the world was already saturated with well-known favorites, such as Batman, Superman, and Spiderman, he wanted to come up with something fresh and creative that would draw the viewers’ interest.

Such is the way with writing. How do you take a popular theme that’s been done a hundred of times, like Cinderella or secret baby, and make it fresh, original, and interesting enough to have a reader want to read your book? And what about characters?

Something that really connected me to the show Heroes was that Kring’s desire to create a show of superheroes, or people with supernatural powers, resonated with the desire of many authors to create books with characters and motifs that have already been done before. What could be done to make it different enough to keep a viewer (or reader) interested?

In Kring’s case, it was to make these characters as ordinary as he could. They were normal people, just like you and I, from all walks of life, with their own family/personal/marital/emotional/work problems and every day issues, who discover they have a supernatural power and from there, you see their struggle as they learn to cope with that power, whether they want the power or not, and how that struggle affects them as they strive to continue to lead a “normal” life. Making the characters ordinary people really resonates with the average everyday person.

It’s the same with writing. Take the paranormal market, for instance. The market has been saturated with werewolves and vampires. So for an author struggling to break into the paranormal market, or for one already there who wants to stand out from the rest of the crowd, how do you make your vampire or werewolf stand out from another author’s vampire/werewolf? J.R. Ward and Sherrilyn Kenyon are great authors who have accomplished this feat.

Instead of elaborating more, I’d like to hear your opinions and suggestions on what kinds of twists you can put on a tried and true theme/character to make it stand out from all the others that have been done.


Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

I think you've hit it--you have to take the "done to death" and twist the heck out of it. Like taking the classic Sleeping Beauty and making that beauty a man. Or Lord of the Rings updated with modern day teenagers and the rings are class rings, or better, iPods. :)

Savanna Kougar said...

I like to make it character-driven, that is, whatever theme or story line I'm using, it's bent according to who the heroine and hero are, and what their world, their social structure is. It's about how they overcome the trials and tribulations before them. Also, how they celebrate their lives, what makes them personally happy, their souls fulfilled. And, of course, love is love, it just comes in every color and shade, in every variety and flavor. Good question, Mai. Thought-provoking.

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Very interesting blog, Mai. I like my paranormal deeply paranormal. I do like it rooted in the real world, but I enjoy stories where the paranormal world exists alongside our 'normal' world. There seems to be a trend (or at least I've noticed a number of books like this) for lighter paranormal elements in a story where the characters are otherwise completely normal. It sounds as though Heroes is like this, although I have to admit I've never watched it.