Many writers face the fear of being unoriginal: there’s no plot, character, storyline, twist, or ending that hasn’t been done before.
Is this a valid fear? Should we just admit defeat, throw down our pens and find a new hobby?
Not at all. We’ll mix up the picture and expression a bit:
You may think its been done before, but it hasn’t had your special touch on it, and that makes a world of difference.
Don’t believe me? Take it from the songwriters at Disney. Have you ever noticed that the first few notes of “Under the Sea” from the Little Mermaid are exactly the same as the first few notes of “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” from the Lion King? Go ahead, go on YouTube and listen – I’ll wait.
Back now? Notice how the different instruments give each song their distinctive feel – if I hadn’t pointed it out, would you have noticed? Each song then continues with their own stories, each fully representative of the musical flavor of the piece, with no more resemblance to their shared intro.
And, as a bit of a history lesson on Disney films, “Under the Sea” was composed by Alan Menken with lyrics by Howard Ashman for the 1989 film, while “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” was composed for the 1994 release by Elton John and lyricist Tim Rice.
So, it wasn’t a case of a composer reusing something a few years later. Two completely different composers found that same combination of notes made the perfect entrance to the beat and the story of their song. And both the films were pretty successful in their own right – I don’t think the Lion King suffered for the use of the intro, or The Little Mermaid from the repetition. Both have been made into hit Broadway Musicals, with “Under the Sea” often used as the feature song.
So, the next time you think you don’t have anything original to say, just remember to mix up your settings, maybe change your instruments, and let the story take you where it wants to go.