I enjoy reading PuppetVision Blog and there’s this post today which makes me think about the commonalities between design and fiction.
I want to scream at my monitor every time I read about someone wanting to do their own take on Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, those ideas aren’t new or original and I don’t think people will respond to them because they are not remarkable. If your goal is just to clone what’s already been done (and the mainstream media does that a lot) by all means go ahead. But if your goal is to get attention, have a large audience and be successful you are probably wasting your time.
It’s the same with fiction, isn’t it? I wonder how much of the fiction that seems derivative is actually motivated by a desire to recreate the feeling of wonder which the original created in the reader. You know what I mean, right? “Oh! This books with chainsaws really frightened me. I want to frighten other people like that, so I should put chainsaws in my book!” Which is just looking at the surface. To really emulate these shows or stories we need to look at the roots. “This frightened me.”
Why were you frightened? Now, I think that’s a subtly but importantly different question from “Why did it frighten you.” If you know why you had the reaction then you can think about other things that would provoke the same reaction in you. That’s the thing worth emulating.