Strangeness and Familiarity

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"Here's what I think we do: we want strangeness in our stories, but we want familiarity, too." (Foster 63).

I could not agree more with Foster. I HATE to read the same stories twice, and even hate to see a movie twice. I guess I just think I could be reading something new with the same time that I was using to re-read the old. Also, if a story reminds me too much of another story, I will immediately put the book down because I most likely know the ending, and I don't really want to know the ending.

However, when reading through any book, it is interesting to compare and contrast it to works that I have read previously. The stories are generally different, but have commonalities (as most do).


Jennifer Prex said:

A story that's too familiar does have that major downfall of predictability. I do agree that, when the works are different enough, it is interesting to compare and contrast them. There are certain elements that each genre has to have in order for the stories to fit in them, but they still have to be different enough for the reader to stay interested. It's interesting when an author puts an original spin on something overused.

Kayla Lesko said:

I'm the same way. It's annoying to read the same story over again, except with different characters.

Dave said:

I also bore of the same a fit of boredom I read Dan Brown's books back to back, and by the second, I already knew what would happen. While much of the circumstances were completely different, the person who seems most helpful is always the mastermind behind the evil plan in the end....and it kinda pissed me off. I read a third to see if he'd break the pattern, but no, he sure didn't.
That having been adequately bitched about, I do like to find similarities between works, or even references to other works. For me it has to have random, or in some other way interesting connections, so that the reader really has to pay attention to pick them up. While the familiarity is nice, I shouldn't be able to say, "oh, this is Othello but with Space pirates and zombies," with any certainty until the end. Likewise, it is helpful to feed the reader doses of the familiar, in order to later make the story entertaining by completely reversing them. If Dan Brown would have, JUST ONCE, had the most obvious villian be "real" head villian, it would have broken from the formula so dramatically that I would not have resolved to never read anymore of his books, unless I end up in prison and have read everything else they have on hand (with the exception of other authors who are even lower on my NO NOT READ list), and am for some reason unable to write.

So, in an attempt to reach some point: I think its important for writers to hit the right familiar/original balance.

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