…i was in highschool when i learned that romeo and juliet was not an entirely original idea of Shakespeare’s. that he came from a generation of people who looked to older tales and made them their own by putting new spins on them. so the idea of star crossed lovers from warring familes can be found everywhere from Namibia to New Zealand, but Shakespeare wrote one so beautifully heartbreaking that we don’t really need the others, do we?
when i was teaching, and i wanted to do enticing activities for my students, i worked for hours on what i’d hope to be great lessons. then, feeling sorry for me, a veteran teacher gave me a piece of advice that i would become sort of a mantra for me: “don’t re-create the wheel”. they told me to find lessons on the internet and to tweak them to fit my style. once i did so, i realized that this not only saved time, but allowed me to develop a myriad of ideas, things i may never have thought of on my own.
this guy i knew once told me, that an old man taught him, that there have only been seven great ideas and that everything in existence is a culmination of some blend of these ideas. i’m not so sure that there’s only been seven, but i fully agree with the idea that everything we have and do today is a recreation of something from the past. this revelation has helped me a great deal with my writing. as a teenager, i wanted to write a story that’s never been told before. something epic that would last generations. i drove myself insane trying to invent a new poetic form, thinking of a way to tell a story from a POV that’s never been used. but then i learned that today’s blockbusters are based on yesterday’s literature. that yesterday’s literature is based on history’s epics, and that those epics were based on oral tradition. and that all f these find inspiration from life. and as we all know, fashion and technology may constantly change, but humans, in essence remain the same.
chaucer’s canterbury tales and mcgruder’s boondocks comic strip both use comedy and ensemble characters to critique their societies. on the surface these two men come from completely different worlds, but a closer look and you’ll see each’s use of comedy, satire specifically, to open the eyes of their audiences. but these authors and their art are separated by a good 700 years.
this is the art of the storyteller. to take timeless dilemmas and blend them with relevant issues of the day to, in the end, create a tale that will reflect the people and culture of their time. so
my challenge is not to write a story that’s never been told, but to take a lesson, an image, a battle from various sources and create a tale that represents US now.