It is said that there are no new stories, that we simply re-hash the same handful of narratives over and over again in new ways. While there is a point to this sweeping generalization, from time-to-time a writer runs across a work that is substantially similar to his own. I’m not talking about plagiarism or even works that are subconsciously inspired by another. I’m talking about that awkward moment when you have a two-year-old manuscript sitting in the wings, just waiting for a final edit, and you hear about a successful new television series whose setup is basically the same as your novel.
More specifically, I’m talking about Eric Kripke.
For those who aren’t familiar with Eric Kripke, he is the series creator of Supernatural, and more recently… Revolution. But I’ll get to that in a second.
First, some interesting facts between myself and Mr. Kripke:
- He was born in 1974. I was born in 1974.
- He was born in Ohio. Both of my parents are from Ohio.
- He has one child; a son. I have one child; a son.
- Both of our sons were born in 2007.
I am officially ooked out.
Now, I began this blog post discussing stories which are substantially similar, and there’s a point to all of this. I promise. But I wanted to take a quick jog over to NBC’s website and quote for you the plot summary for Kripke’s new series Revolution:
“…a family struggles to reunite in an American landscape where every single piece of technology – computers, planes, cars, phones, even lights – has mysteriously blacked out forever.”
Cool, huh? Now, let me take another quick jog about a year ago in this very blog where I quoted a pitch for my novel Omnipotence:
“After a global cataclysm wipes out all technology on Earth, five strangers across America discover they have been endowed with god-like abilities, and must learn how to deal with their powers… and each other.”
What we’re looking at here is the same basic setup. A mysterious cataclysm has caused all technology to fail inexplicably, throwing modern America into a kind of post-apocalypse based on our society’s reliance on electronics.
Now, before the eye-rolling commences, I want to be clear. I’m not actually complaining about Eric Kripke. In fact, I’m utterly amused at the similarities in our backgrounds and creative output. Granted, if I attempted to roll out Omnipotence within the next few months, there is a heightened probability that the average reader and/or agent would assume it was riding on Revolution‘s coattails. And that is unfortunate.
The good news is that Omnipotence remains on the shelf, and for good reason. It’s a bit too experimental for mass market appeal. It’s also a “powers” story, technically more similar to the movie Chronicle than Revolution. It could, however, make an interesting serial release. But that’s a thought for another day.
I’ve mentioned Joseph Campbell’s “monomyth” theory before on this blog. It’s a pattern that Campbell distilled from epic narratives throughout written history, and is often not only identified as the basic skeleton of most fiction, it’s often proposed as the intentional platform for which to frame one’s narrative. Time and again, I’ve boiled down movies and novels into the primary points along the Hero’s Journey.
Does this mean we as a species are inherently unimaginative? Not at all. The fact that we have re-told the same story over and over again in endless permutations is a testament to our ability to find nuance and enjoyment in this framework. But the fact of the matter remains… humans are hard-wired for specific storytelling mechanics. Three Act Structure, sympathetic protagonist, reflection characters, conflict and resolution… it’s in our DNA. And in that, we have absorbed the stories of our childhood, re-distilled them in our subconscious, and poured them back out into each other’s tumblers as our own concoction. Each story has its own spin, its own flavor, its own peculiar appeal.
And as long as the story is adequately rendered, there’s room at the table for everyone.
So all of that to say this… Eric Kripke and I are Corsican Twins.
Which explains all of those sudden pains I feel in the left side of my body during sweeps week…
Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net