The following article is for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as scholarly research or as a final authority on the subject.
Wild Card Wednesday at Full-Tilt Backwoods Boogie means anything can happen.
Today, let’s talk about rip-offs.
I’ve been going through one of those phases where everything I write seems like a cheap copy of some other story. Of course, it isn’t. It’s a special little snowflake only I could have written. Yeah, right.
That’s not too far from the truth, though. My work is both a rip-off and a special snowflake. Perhaps everybody’s is.
“Every story has already been told. Once you’ve read Anna Karenina, Bleak House, The Sound and the Fury, To Kill a Mockingbird and A Wrinkle in Time, you understand that there is really no reason to ever write another novel. Except that each writer brings to the table, if she will let herself, something that no one else in the history of time has ever had.” — Anna Quindlen
Each time I sit down to write, I remind myself of this quote. If I don’t, I’ll spend all day saying, “…but the villain is from Sunglasses after Dark, and the setting is from The Shining…and the protagonist is just like Sookie Stackhouse…” and write exactly nothing.
Every piece of literature, every movie, and every song can be traced back to a seed. Don’t believe me? Read a lot of Richard Matheson and, then, read Stephen King. It’s easy to see where Stephen King’s story ideas originated. Watch a bunch of 70s exploitation flicks, and, then, watch Quentin Tarantino. Music? Listen to Robert Johnson, and, then, listen to Led Zeppelin.
The theory even applies to individual songs. Some songs are so similar, you almost can’t tell them apart.
In the film, Better off Dead, there is a race sequence in which a particular song plays. Below is an example of the scene and the song:
Back in the pre-internet ice age, some helpful individual told me the song in this clip was “Bad to the Bone” by George Thorogood and the Destroyers. Like an idiot, I raced to the record store and bought the 45 of “Bad to the Bone.” I got home, spun the record, and found out I was wrong.
WTF? That’s what I get for not doing my own research. My mistake had a silver lining. I discovered George Thorogood and the Destroyers. “Bad to the Bone,” incidentally, was featured in the movie version of Stephen King’s Christine.
Every time I saw Better off Dead, though, I wondered about that song. You gotta admit, it’s a catchy tune. My inner nerd, Research Girl, made an appearance, and I learned the truth.
The song featured in the Camaro race scene of Better off Dead is “Manish Boy” by Muddy Waters. [Note: I’ve seen it spelled both ways–mannish and manish.]
But that’s not all.
Muddy Waters wrote and sang “Manish Boy” in response to Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man.” Bo Diddley wrote and recorded “I’m a Man” in 1955. It was famously covered by The Yardbirds whose lead guitarist, Jimmy Page, went on to form Led Zeppelin.
But that’s still not all.
“I’m a Man” was inspired by “Hoochie Coochie Man.” “Hoochie Coochie Man” was written by Willie Dixon and originally recorded by Muddy Waters in 1955. This song was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1984. Eric Clapton has done a famous cover of it.
These songs are still remembered more than half a century after they were recorded. Which one is not original enough?
Writing is no different. Every idea comes from somewhere. Every character is based on a mixture of people, ideas, and experience. By the time a story is finished, it belongs to the person who wrote it.
Create with confidence. Practice will take away the rough edges. Nothing worth doing is easy.