Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Old Story IS the New Story

by :Robin Janney

One of the thing I love about Facebook is scrolling through comments on various page posts; unless they're negative comments then I hate it because I get so angry and worked up.  This past week I saw a Page ad for the new movie opening this weekend Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.  Of course, my outdated iPhone 4 decided to glitch out at the moment I tried to watch the clip!  So I had to start all over and then I couldn't find it.

Of course!!!

So I moved to the "search box" and typed in "Jack Ryan" hoping to find the Page.  I did.  After I had a good laugh at my friend Ryan Jack's name being at the top of the search list!  I kid you not, when he first starting working with us at Cargill, I really seriously thought his name tag on his hard hat was on backwards.  Every time I saw it, it just creased my forehead.  I didn't believe it was his real name until a coworker referred to him by his full name - a necessity when there's more than one Ryan in the department.  Ok, it still creases my forehead because everything in me insists the name ought to be the other way around!  But then I've never claimed to be 'right in the head' lol!

Once I'd found my page and my clip, I scrolled down and read some of the comments.  A lot of people were positive, looking forward to the movie either because it's Jack Ryan or because it stars Chris Pine.  A few had to make negative comments.  I really want to argue with them about certain things.  Like: Did Chris Pine really make Captain Kirk cool again...or did playing Captain Kirk make Chris Pine cool?  But it's really not worth engaging "trolls" in conversation.

One comment really struck a nerve with me.  I saw it a few times.  People complaining about prequels and sequels and can't Hollywood come up with any new stories?  For starters, if something is making money, Hollywood's going to play it to death until it stops making them money.  And secondly, there aren't any new stories!  That line in the bible about there being nothing new under the sun really is true.

My challenge as a writer is to take that old story and make it fresh.  Plot twists, plot devices, so on and so forth.  For example, the heart of my novel Farmer's Daughter really is "boy meets girl"...a rather classic story plot.  What makes it interesting are the different flaws, conflicts, and personalities.  I mixed things up a bit by giving the male lead an issue that is usually seen only in female characters.  I can only think of two movies of the top of my head I've ever seen in which a male was sexually abused by a woman, and I can't even tell you what they are.  I'm sure there must be more, but I don' t think it's common.  It wasn't something I planned on doing when I first started writing the story, it was something that came out in an early free write and I decided to keep it.

As it plays an important role in later novels, I'm glad it's a plot twist I decided to keep.  As before, my challenge is to keep it interesting and not just replay the same old hangups you see in every other novel.  How will my male lead handle it when his abuser apologizes and tried to be his mother again?  Is he really as healed as his marriage and his re-found Christianity makes him think he is?  Things I have to come up with answers for that will be believable but not easily anticipated.

Writing is a lot of work, but it's enjoyable work.  I'll pick up on that thought next time.


  1. C.P. Stringham - Author posts: You are so right, Robin! (And Chris Pine HATERS? Really?!? I can't believe there is such a thing!) Back on topic, it is an old story, but it's what we do as authors to make it new, transform it. Let's face it. We recycle. Make it our own. I'm a huge M. Night Shyamalan fan. I loved the movie critic character, Harry Farber, in Lady in the Water. When Cleveland asks Mr. Farber if there are any original story ideas left and Mr. Farber replies, "There is no originality left in the world, Mr. Heep — that is a sad fact I have come to live with." That line makes me chuckle every time.

  2. Yes CP, sadly there are Chris Pine Haters. I think they're just jealous lol!

    I have a confession to make, I've never read M. Night Shyamalan!

  3. Perfectly fine not to be familiar with him as an author. M. Night Shyamalan is a screenplay writer and director. His film works include: The Sixth Sense ("I see dead people," Unbreakable, Signs, and Lady in the Water. There are more. Those are my favorite,