The Bandwagon Syndrome (or, what NOT to write)

A friend forwarded me this link about humorous writing advice from The Worst Muse. After chuckling over the truthful absurdity of it, I was a bit sad because this is but an inkling of how our literary world functions.

Admit it: how many times have you seen a popular book spawn a lot of not-so-popular copycats? One need look no further than the Twilight series (vampires amok!), The DaVinci Code, and the Harry Potter series to identify the plethora of wannabes in their wake. Or even TV shows doing the same (zombie stories in a post-apocalyptic society are the new black, thanks to The Walking Dead). Kinda like the misfit kids in high school, who tried their best to be one of the cool kids.

It goes beyond plot devices (teenage vampires with lots of angst, search for historical /mythical relics, normal kid realizing s/he was actually a magician, race to save the world/town/country from imminent destruction), but is more widespread in characterization. If you go to BookBub, Choosy Bookworm, or even the free e-book sections of Amazon and Barnes and Noble, you will find many books with detectives (preferably broke-down, retired, or otherwise seeking redemption), FBI/CIA/undercover spy/agent, ex-military, attorneys. Or accidental sleuths such as housewives, new mothers, fashionistas, chefs, caterers, and the like.

I know there’s nothing new under the sun, but DAYUM. :/

At first, I blamed the mainstream publishing industry. Its corporate business model is predicated on the replication of a successful book, in any iteration, until it is no longer successful. Kinda like how a virus replicates until it outgrows its breeding ground and is forced to seek a new one; lather, rinse, repeat.  But I see a lot of the aforementioned among self-published authors, as well.

They should have never given folks the ability to copy/paste. Or, for that matter, computers, increased technology, and the greater ease of self-publishing. There was a lot less of this blatant copycatting when books were actually written on typewriters, or by hand.

It’s one thing to take a popular theme and put your own spin on it. It’s a whole ‘nother story (no pun intended) to write something very similar to what’s already out there (and likely glutting the market). It’s as if people are taking the copy/paste function way beyond where it was intended to go. It’s easy to fool oneself into thinking that if one element is changed, then the story is different (e.g,, instead of a mad race with a male university professor to find a historical artifact through Italy, a la The DaVinci Code, there’s a mad race to find a historical artifact through Egypt, with a female archaeologist.).

No. Just…no.

Reminds me of the end-of-movie scene in The Five Heartbeats, where the brothers tell Eddie King that they are starting their own label ( “…instead of Motown, we’ll be…Frotown!”) and they won’t just rap, but they’ll “…rap Country and Western!”. Meanwhile, they wore Run-DMC-type, 1980s  outfits of thick, gold rope chains, Kangol floppy hats, and adidas tracksuits.  (I wish I could find the scene clip on YouTube, but alas…)

I say all this to say: originality still rules at the end of the day, so embrace it.

Thanks for stopping by.