Monday, May 19, 2014

Exasperated with…exacerbated exponential, copycat writing

Have you noticed how the entertainment media has taken a turn for the trite and trivial? Vampires are in; Westerns are out.

The first time I became aware of the copycat killjoys was in the fifties. Late in the era of Bonanza, the psychological Western was born. Then spies and spoofs like The Pink Panther and Maxwell Smart followed by medical dramas from Dr. Kildare to Grey’s Anatomy to Scrubs. Follow those with hard-boiled mysteries, police procedurals and forensics. Currently we’re on the waning edge of lawyer dramas such as The Practice, still seen in foreign countries, and The Good Wife. Both are banned in China. They must not have seen Suits yet.

While Psych lightened our load temporarily spoofing detectives, our senses are now bombarded with Perception. The bi-polar psychological crime-stopping male genius finished his second season. (Seasons are now three to six months long instead of yearly.) Medical heroes with diagnoses of their own, such as the sensuous, of-the-wall Catherine Black of The Black Box, is our newest exploiter. The Black Box is a euphemism for the brain.

On the less domestic side of the genre jumping are spy thrillers. The Black List is a combination of all of the above and a few of the below, hardly a reality show in any normal household. But reality shows aren’t real. Did you know they are scripted? The crocodile tears are auditions for real dramas.

Lately, with vampires our breakthrough genre, the paranormal aka spiritual genres have turned evil or alien with The Dome, Believe, Resurrection, Crisis, The 100…or fairytale knock-offs like Once Upon a Time.

Shakespeare broadly stated that there were only three storylines, but I say once the public bites, the storyline parallels the popular and expands exponentially.

And speaking of exponentially, have you noticed how the news people copy each other’s vocabularies? Overused words are the bane of this listener. Their formats are coded. Just fill in the blanks. To be PC, Politically Correct, we must “move forward”, because heaven forbid anyone advance or move on, or get on with it—or grow. Folks and calculus replace people and do the math. “But wait, there’s more….” Should we accept that from the mouths holding artificially whitened teeth regardless of health issues? If smiles don’t glow in the dark, the reporters and actors are no longer charismatic, or is it Cheshire-ish? Sarah Palin got it right: “We must refutiate!” a nice melding of repudiate and refute. Very original.

Books, movies and TV are the most obvious seducers of the public trust, subliminally affecting our thinking and preferences. As writers, we must offer our readers something fresh, not tired versions of someone else’s popular but fleeting idea. Be a trend setter, not a genre sitter.

Here’s my motivational “ditty” in case you are tempted to stray.

Authors must rise above pandering
to genres that prove less demanding.
Let’s fight for the right
to keep our work bright,
thus creating a niche for our branding.

Find Julie at:
Twitter: @JulieEPainter
Julie is a regular blogger on , and feature writer for!issue-14 an online slick. Her flash fiction appears under
Visit Julie’s Web site at for Bewildering Stories, my bio

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Big Mike said...

I often discussed with my wife how blind the mainstream is to talent and creativity. I mean, how many versions of Godzilla and King kong do we did.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Rhobin Lee Courtright said...

I have noticed this, plus everyone is an entertainer no matter what message they are delivering. I laugh when news announcers take on appropriate solemn expressions for one short tragic news clip and then beam (the effect of overly bright teeth?) smiles for the next snippet of happy news. Have people always been so gullible or has TV and social media brought us to a new low. I also agree on your comments on writing.

Veronica Helen Hart said...

Interesting comments and observations, Julie. I watch one "reality" show, one detective/police show, and scan a few of the home DIY shows. Television has become too much of the same old - same old.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Thank you for "getting my drift." Uh-oh!!

Allison Knight said...

Very well said Julie. Our TV rarely does anything but play music from the service we buy. There is almost nothing, except college football that is worth watching. A sad commentary on the imagination of script writers. I go back to the first thing I learned about writing fiction. Write the kind of stories you like to read but always, always keep the twists coming.

Allison Knight said...

And I'll add one more comment. Play around with new ideas. It's fun, entertaining and just might give you a totally new writing direction.

Gabriella Austen said...

Let's not forget all those cat videos news people find so fascinating and newsworthy. What's more compelling than a cat being a cat.

Victoria Roder said...

I get frustrated with movie remakes when there are so many script writers that can't even get their work looked at because nobody knows them.