It's often said among writers, readers, and story critics that there's only seven (or possibly three, or six, or some other number) basic plots in existence and all books, films, and other types of story available to us are just modifications of these seven (or six, or three, or perhaps thirty-six) plots. I'm not sure about the seven (or whatever other number), but I'm quite ready to believe that there's no such thing as a completely and totally original story. After all, I can readily list off at least three highly significant influences on any of my own novels, and given enough time, I could probably trace almost every element of those stories back to some other story or life experience or random picture I saw somewhere. I highly doubt that even professional authors are much different.
All that said, ideas sometimes come
from strange places- places so far removed from a particular story that I
never would've expected them to influence any area of my life anymore.
And that brings me to The Music Man.
Trouble in River City" and "Shipoopi" and, somewhat to my embarrassment, "The Sadder But Wiser Girl For Me" more or less word for word, if you gave me a reason to- though, generally, no one did).
I came to college, and lo and behold: the winter musical this year is
my old favorite! So, last weekend, despite a developing sore throat, I
ushered at the 2:00
performance. It was an easy job- all I had to do was stand at my
assigned spot and say "Can I help you find your seat?" and occasionally
"Your seat is right there," and then help clean up brochures and
confetti after the show- and in return, I got to watch for free. Which,
you have to admit, is a pretty good deal.
And, can I just say- we have an awesome theater department? Once I got past the fact that the actual theater version of The Music Man
is slightly different in both order of events and exact lyrics of songs
than the movie version I'm used to, I really enjoyed the show. Casting,
costumes, scenery, and- of course- the music were all spot-on (which is
saying something, because I get touchy when I think someone's messed up
one of my favorite things.)
As the show moved on to the second
act, though, I realized something. Something seemed familiar about the
characters, about the ideas in the songs, more than just a childhood obsession. It almost seemed- but no, that was impossible, wasn't it?
there it was all the same. See, there's a particular
character-development/romance archetype that I absolutely love. It's
played out by Flynn and Rapunzel in Tangled, by Han Solo and Leia in Star Wars, by Thorne and Cress in The Lunar Chronicles, by Moist van Lipwig and his ladylove in Discworld,
to a degree by Howl Pendragon and Sophie Hatter. It's the lovable
rogue- a character who's guaranteed to be a favorite even without the
second half of the archetype- who falls in love and ends up becoming a
hero. I enjoy the archetype (and the lovable rogue/rogue with a heart of
gold part specifically) that I try to work it into my stories wherever
it'll fit. In fact, one of my favorite character couples in all my
stories fits the archetype perfectly- or will, when I'm done.
And The Music Man- that's where I first discovered it. Not Star Wars or Tangled like I thought originally. In The Music Man.
In Harold Hill and Marian Paroo. A musical I watched when I was ten
still influences stories I started long after I thought I'd forgotten
the show altogether.
Aren't ideas funny things?
Where are some of the most unexpected things that've influenced your stories? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)