Lesson Twenty-One from a Manuscript Red Line: Common, and Cliché Themes

This one made me laugh.  There is a point in the Gold Mine manuscript where a secondary lead character finds out that someone is his father.  His reaction is “You’re . . . my . . . father?” (minor action element for dramatic effect). “My father?”

What made me laugh is that the publisher said “This immediately bought to mind Star Wars”

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

Now, I actually did not think “Star Wars” when I read it, but there is another element in this story that has since been removed…  My son and I (he also read the manuscript) were talking about this other element, and my husband said:  “She stole that from Star Wars!”  I was thinking it in the back of my head, but he verbalized it very well.

The problem is, Star Wars is not just a story that was written over thirty years ago.  It is a piece of Americana.  There are too many people in the USA, and in the world, who have seen Star Wars… even memorized it.  You simply CANNOT mess with themes like that anymore, unless you are careful.

Now, is this to say that no person will ever find out about questionable parentage again in literature?  No, of course not.  However, you need to be VERY CAREFUL when you do it.  Like this publisher stated in an earlier post… Find the uniqueness in what is not unique.

You need to make this your own.  When they read your tear-jerking scene, they should see only your characters in their minds, not Luke laying on that platform and then falling down the shaft.  If an element has been used before, and notably so, work that scene harder than any other scene.  Make sure, without a doubt, that the element is now YOURS.  Make them forget all about Luke Skywalker.


 Jennifer Eaton

16 responses to “Lesson Twenty-One from a Manuscript Red Line: Common, and Cliché Themes

  1. Pingback: Lesson Thirty from a Manuscript Red Line: Finale! Summing it all up | Jennifer M Eaton

  2. I blame Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey.

    I would hate to have to bring up that angle in a story, because finding a unique spin would be so hard. I’m not sure I could even go there.

  3. Yes, Star Wars and other blockbusters that are part of our culture. I think that it’s very difficult to write 100% original stories and that’s what we are all striving to do.

  4. ha, great post!! now if only some of the execs in hollywood would read it… i’m so tired of spin cycle movies.

    one thing this reminded me of is how great lines or ideas or cinematography that are groundbreaking and original can become so embedded, mocked, and copied in pop culture, that the original unique idea becomes cheesy. ‘luke, i’m your father’ just doesn’t carry the same weight anymore…

  5. You bring it home, again, Jennifer. A day late with comments. Sorry. Busy defending toe pics yesterday. (It’s sentence frag day, btw.)

    ACK! Not a Star Wars fan. NOTE TO SELF: Must have ONE beta reader who is.

  6. You know I’ve never seen/read/discussed Star Wars before, but that construction sounded familiar. How awkward if I’ve written that before and my subconscious pulled it from Star Wars (somewhere from people talking about it) but my mind told me how wonderful I was for creating such an amazing line. Yeah … no.

    • Ha! It’s funny, there are so many sentances and ideas in this movie series that people quote everyday. If you haven’t seen the movies, you wouldn’t even know. If you are mildly into Sci-Fi Fantasy (Fantasy more) you should check out Star Wars— the old ones A New Hope, Empire Strikes BAck, and Return of the Jedi. You can skip the newer ones. They didn’t have as much punch. (My husband is a Start Wars Fanatic. I’m nore a Lord of the Rings person.)

  7. I have seen Star Wars so many times I do have every scene memorized and I see a lot of them everywhere, mostly movies. I usually have to rewrite a few scenes so they are unique, sometimes that is the hardest part about writing.

  8. I love your posts. How did you change the scene to make it yours?

    • Actually Marie, the Gold Mine Manuscript is not mine. It belongs to a friend. They were just gratious enough to let me disect the comments the publisher made every week.

      I have not read the author’s revision yet.

  9. Ok, this post made me laugh out loud. It’s so true what you say. It’s funny that your son and husband both talk about it. And everyone knows the dad scene in Star Wars. Let the force be with you too.

  10. I know exactly what you mean.. as I wrote my first manuscript, I was as careful as possible. I did not want anything my characters said to remind readers of something someone else said (meaning, stay away from popular lines like: “Luke, I am your father” AND “Yipee Kay Ay.”

    Awesome post.

  11. fantastic advice. so how would you handle this scene? How would you relay the info if it were your manuscript?

    • This one is really hard. If I were placed in this situation, I think I would watch that scene in Star Wars, and then be very careful NOT to make my reactions anywhere near what the characters were in the movie. Maybe have the boy just step back and not say anything at all. or a “get away from me, you liar” or something like that, The reactions, of course, need to be in character, and drive the story foreward. There’s not too many ways I can think of to re-create a kid finding out about an unknown father.

      If you have someting like this in your story, and would like me to take a look, please let me know.