Tuesday, September 8, 2009

But It’s Been Done Before?

How’s this for a story:

After the unruly children exhaust nanny after nanny, a mysterious "super nanny" with magical powers drops in… The children grow to love her fabulous shenanigans as well as learn to behave. When order and balance is restored to the household, the nanny leaves, allowing them to relish their new found joy.

No no, it’s a not a story I’m planning to write.

But what story did you imagine there? I’m guessing you were thinking “But this is Mary Poppins!”

Yes, my first thought as well. But it also applies to Nanny McPhee.

When that movie first came out, I hastily brushed it off as a repeat of Mary Poppins. Bart and some others went to see McPhee. (I had somewhere else to go, as I recall, and I had not been so keen on it anyway given my assessment.) Well, Bart and the others really enjoyed it. And although Bart (who is a fan of Poppins) had the same worry as me, he found himself pleasantly surprised and assured me that it had not been the same story all over again.

So, via the magic of TiVo, I finally got to see for myself. Yes, the premise is essentially the same. But it’s also true that it’s nowhere near the same tale. I’m not going to spell out all the differences or the plot of Nanny McPhee. You can do such compare and contrast yourself. For it’s quite a good movie.

The point, of course, is that it’s entirely possible to have a similar but different story. Just because a through-line is common does not mean adventures do not exist until themselves. Granted, it takes skill to accomplish, but that’s true of any story.

Thus, I’m very glad I’d been wrong with my quick judgment. Lesson learned. (<-- reference to Nanny McPhee, actually.)

Actually, the same thing happened with my first novel. No, not a nanny. I don’t expect anyone will ever see this novel of mine, unless I do an overhaul on it. Plus it needs a sub-adventure of the past put into it so as to support the framework of the overall story. I began the novel in high school and finished it, or so I recall, in my first year of college. (1989) Let me tell you the basic premise. See what else comes to mind…

A kid, who lives with his aunt and uncle (after his parents died in a car crash), finds out that he has been selected to attend a special school to learn the art of magic. There are wacky professors and some cool friends along the way…and he ultimately discovers that he’s the chosen one who can undo the great evil in the land.

How about that? The story you’re probably thinking of came out in 1997. Go figure. And despite a few eeriely specific coincidences between the two, they are like Poppins and McPhee -- an entirely different adventure.

* And yes, I do know that the television show The Nanny is neither one I spoke of... but I wanted to keep the surprise element via the text. Also, this show applies as well. For in a rough sense, it's a reworking of The Sound of Music.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What story? I don't remember any boy wizard whose parents died in a car crash. :P

Seriously, though, even real life happens that way. I used to think "The King and I" and "The Sound of Music" had a very similar premise--and both are based on actual events!

Then again, they did take creative liberties with both for the musicals, maybe they just went with a "template" story and noted that both those historical events somewhat resembled it...?

Anyway, I don't remember who said it, but I like the adage that a great artist (I'm paraphrasing) isn't one who imitates no one, but who no one can imitate. (Tolkien comes to mind as a description of that....)