My co-bloggers and I have had a few conversations recently about the new Indiana Jones movie, the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. You see, in one of Dawn's novels, a major element is a crystal skull. Now she's in a situation. Forge on at the risk of agents or editors deeming it "a cliche' that's been done before" and assuming she copied the idea from popular media, or come up with a new artifact in its place that might not fit the story as well.
Dawn said: The thing about it is, nobody had anything like it. It took a lot of research to pull it off and make you feel like you were in SA when I've never been there. I chose the crystal skulls because they've been found on every continent on the planet and the true mystery is that nobody knows where they really came from. And here's something to chew on, if a silcone chip can store the data it does on a computer, what could an object that size hold?
We try to dream up original, fresh ideas, but how original is original? How fresh is fresh? That can change in a few weeks. Sometimes in a day. Even in minutes. If you've been working on a manuscript for a while, chances are someone is going to come up with something close to your premise, your characters or an important story element, or there's going to be a major news event that echoes it. How quickly can you roll with the punches and transform an overnight cliche' into something else?
Writing requires a lot more than talent with words, plots, dialogue and character development. Like any business it's about knowing the market, the market trends, and the competitions' product (though it rankles me to think of other writers' work in that way). As writers, we have to be in the know. Sometimes we have to make gut-wrenching decisions about our work because of recent events. At other times, we have to weigh the risk. In time, a cliche' may no longer be a cliche' but a rediscovered idea. Something that's fresh once more.
Part II: Coincidences will be posted soon.