Hollywood is running out of ideas. They just are. Between all the stupidly formulaic television shows (one of many reasons we no longer have cable in our house) and the humdrum remakes of both formerly good TV shows and movies — they should have left well enough alone — it seems as if the major networks and studios have just thrown up their hands and quit trying to create anything original or unique. If you watch primetime TV, you’ll see the very same storylines, the very same plot twists, the very same character triggers, the very same everything from show to show but with different actors and costumes.
Now, I realize that to a certain extent fiction has to be formulaic. Scene and story structure have to be there to move the story and characters along, whether on screen or in a book. So I don’t fault the writers entirely for writing this way. And apparently these shows are selling commercial air time, which is what TV is all about anyway. The movie industry is suffering, but that’s mostly a format issue — people waiting for the DVD or Netflix, thanks to high ticket prices and improved home theater technologies.
But whatever happened to the art of storytelling? Why does Hollywood tell the same story over and over, usually making it worse each time? Why is this happening? Why can’t they come up with new characters, new stories, new plots?
When the Fox hit show 24 debuted in November 2001, it truly was a revolutionary show. In fact, when Keiffer Sutherland first pitched the idea of a show where the action took place in real time and each episode was an actual hour, the network execs with their heads in the sand balked at it and said it would never work. He was convinced it would, and eight seasons and 18 Emmys (out of over 30 nominations) later, apparently he was right.
Revolution is NBC’s newest attempt at something, well, revolutionary. And it works. It’s a premise that has been tried in books and movies before, but never in television to this extent. I was hooked from the pilot and will be watching when the series resumes March 25.
I say all of this as a lead in to a question for all my author friends: Where do you find your inspiration for what you write? What do you do to keep it fresh, so you don’t just repeat what every other author is writing out there? And how do you balance that with the need for story structure?
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