First off, I have to admit a passion for musicals. When I was a kid I always wanted to be a writer and a Broadway performer. It turns out I am a half way decent writer but can’t carry a tune in a bucket. So, my Broadway dreams went by the wayside.
Second, I have to admit an odd relationship to music.I like music alright. I haven’t added a new musician to the list of people I listen to since 2008 but I have a fairly broad selection on my MP3 player. At my job we are allowed to have our MP3 players on while we work. Normally, I listen to audio books. But today, I needed a music cleansing. So, for six hours I just listened to music. Somehow, this all ended with me on you tube after work looking up different songs and comparing performances by different actresses (for show tunes) or artists.
One of the things I found particularly amazing was how different each song was depending on who sang it.
One of my favorite songs from a musical is Aldonza from Man of Lamancha. For anyone not familiar with Man of Lamancha I will give you the briefest of details. Man of Lamancha tells the story of Don Quixote, a man who has read so many books on chivalry that he believes himself a knight. In his travels he happens upon an inn where he meets the whore Aldonza. Only, Don Quixote doesn’t see a whore. He sees a great Lady. Aldonza ends up getting sucked into his ideas about chivalry. When she tries to do a good deed she is gang raped by the men she was trying to help. Don Quixote finds her afterwards and Aldonza is her commentary on the fact she is a whore and not a lady.
I watched several actresses perform this particular song. Most of them took a very angry and aggressive interpretation. But, Sophia Loren, who was in the movie version did a bit less anger and more despair. I think if I had ever had the opportunity to do the role I would have focused on the despair also. Aldonza has been nothing but a whore her whole life and for a while she really believes she can become a lady. The, when she acts as a proper lady should her visions of her potential shatter. By the time Don Quixote finds her she has realized that she is still just Aldonza the whore. Not the great lady he sees.
So, what exactly is my point?
Every actress who plays a part brings her interpretation to her role. Every singer changes the way a song is presented. And, every writer brings their own perspective to a story.
Many new writers are uncomfortable “borrowing” ideas from other books and movies. While blatant plagiarism is a big no no there is nothing wrong with taking a basic idea that is already out there and putting your own spin on it.
My NaNo 2013 story (which I should be writing instead of this blog…) was sparked by the movie The Village. In the movie there are a group of people living in a very old fashioned town who believe that demons roam outside their walls but it is only lies made up by the village elders to keep the people in the village.
Next spring I will be self publishing a novel I recently finished called Two Weddings and a Baby. It is about a woman who was pregnant and heading west with a wagon train when her husband died. She decides to marry a one legged carpenter instead of continuing on. Where did that idea first spring from? Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly series. My book is so very different that I like to think a casual reader wouldn’t see any correlations. But, I was reading that series when I started to wonder what would happen if…
If I gave twenty writers the same prompt they would give me back twenty different stories.
In a nutshell: Every writer’s stories are unique and worth writing even if the story they are telling is similar to one that has been told before. A writer’s interpretation is everything and no two people will write the exact same book just like no two actresses will play Aldonza exactly the same way. Each brings her own ideas to the character. And, the world is better for it all.