Thursday, February 9, 2017

Discovery in River City

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.

 The first time I saw this musical, I was ten, maybe eleven. I watched the first half of the film version while my parents were having Bible Study, then saw the full movie a few months later because my family got it out from the library. We also got out the soundtrack- well, I got out the soundtrack, and though I only managed to watch The Music Man another time and a half, maybe a few halves, I listened to the soundtrack obsessively until the library forced me to give it back. They then proceeded to lose the cd, and so time went on and I more or less forgot about the show (even though I could still sing "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).

Then 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?

But 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)   


  1. How interesting! It makes sense that that seed would be planted in you at a very young age. The things that influence us can come at any time, of course- but the stories we experience during our early years seem to become the strongest influences of all. :)

    1. That is true. It still surprised me, though. :)
      Thanks for commenting!

  2. I've had quite a bit of story inspiration for themes and scenes from musicals!

    It was a long time ago when I saw The Music Man on stage. I mainly remember the train scene, and Harold hiding behind Marcellus to escape the townspeople.

    1. That's cool! What are some of the main musicals that've inspired you?

      The train scene! I love the train scene. I don't remember Harold hiding behind Marcellus, though . . . that must not have been in our version?

    2. Peter Pan and Tarzan helped me as I was writing a story with a jungle island setting. It's things like that which help. Sometimes I just need to see the scenery and hear a soundtrack, and then I have my story fodder.

      The train scene is classic!

    3. Ahhhh. Cool. I definitely agree on the soundtrack bit.

      Definitely. :D

  3. Cool! Influences on my personality (instead of my writing, since I don't really write anymore) are one of my favourite things to keep track of. All the little quirks I pick up subconsciously from being around people and talking to people. It just fascinates me how all my little quirks and gestures are accidentally stolen from the people around me.
    To make matters more interesting, I find that most of my quirks come from three or four people who aren't even my closest friends.

    Also, concerning new plots/new anything really,I realised while I was still making my world that there really is no such thing as something new. Everything we think is new is really a rearrangement of the old things that we haven't seen before. In fact there is no naturalistic way for anything new to come into existence. This just shows how much of a different scale (infinitely higher, literally) God is on compared with all his creation. There really is no comparison.

    Heh, apparently I had some ideas wanting to burst on this topic :}
    Lertaen Miklul

    1. Oooh, yes. I have a harder time tracing influences on my own personality, but I know that I pick up a lot of mannerisms (namely vocal things) from the people around me.

      That is a very good point. None of us are really creating anything because everything we do is just a modification on what God already did, if not someone else . . .

      Thanks for commenting!


I'd love to hear your thoughts! But remember: it pays to be polite to dragons.