Un~original Originals

Imitation. The Sincerest Form of Flattery? Or Lack of Imagination?

Books with various subjects on wooden shelves

It’s third trimester and I have my students working on an informative essay. This is not new to them. We’ve done them before, and my 8th graders, who had me last year, did several essays for me as well.

7th grade is writing about their favorite animal, and 8th grade is focusing on their dream destination. Easy topics? I thought so! I even helped them narrow the topics down to manageable main ideas with step-by-step directions, including an example essay I am writing right along with them.

My essay is about adding insects to our lunch menu. No, they’re not on board with the idea yet, but I am having fun watching them squirm! My “hook,” my first sentence is, “Would you like a side of fried worms with that?” They loved it! BUT – I did show them three other topic or focus sentences I could have used. One was another question, one was a statement, and one was an imperative.

We talked about why one might be better than the others, and they all agreed on my choice. Great! Right on track.

So, we reviewed what I expect in an introductory paragraph and I showed them how I searched for information to support my main idea. I also had them help me create a thesis statement for my essay. We ended up with, “Adding insects to the menu is a realistic idea that could feed many and save money.” So far so good!
Then.
Then NINETEEN students took turns showing me their first sentence for approval and I got NINETEEN questions similar to this –

“Would you like a tiger for a pet?”
“Would you like to have a shark?”
“Would you like to go to China?”
“Would you like to live in a volcano?”

Do you see where I am going with this? DOUBLE UG! This is how every single one of their papers started out! I honestly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Or stare at all of them blankly.
I explained to them that I wanted to “see them” on their paper. Not me. I got the trademark middle school blank stare. I went back to my examples of other topic sentences I could have used. Blank stares.

So I made it easy on them, I simply said no one could use “Would you like…” to start their essay.
Yep. Easy. We needed a whole other class period for them to come up with another topic sentence. It was brutal.

So this got me to thinking about writing in general. We have genres because we have similar plots that introduce similar subject matter that provides us with enough similar characteristics to be categorized; fantasy, science fiction, drama, comedy, horror, mystery, and any combination thereof.

So it’s to be expected that multiple authors could use similar plots to develop their unique twist on an old story. Kinda like the recent onslaught of 80’s movies remakes. Well-made remakes can bring back in the original 80’s fans, along with the current generation. Win win. But when does a story-line get old? When does it get too repetitive and sound too much like the next one on the shelf?

My current “active” story has a familiar plot but hopefully enough of my personal spin on it to make it a worthwhile read. Hopefully. If I finish it.

So Dear Readers, if you will, take a look at my unoriginal original and let me know what YOU think.

2 thoughts on “Un~original Originals”

  1. Your story sums up my argument that imitation, in a since,is a prerequisite to any creative endeavor. We write what sounds good to us, based on what we enjoy reading. Stephen King has written dozens of stories and,let’s face it, many are the same idea, just told differently. I believe it is as much the pattern as the cloth. Your pattern is unique to you.

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