American Idol fans saw a favorite bite the dust this week, losing Pia Toscano whose talent might be more suited for voice-overs and soundtracks, places that need a strong sound only. Harsh criticism, I know, but out of the nine remaining finalists, Miss Toscano's incredible voice wasn't enough to rise her above the others. She lacked the ability to entertain entirely, unable to draw in voters as well as compete with the more unique talents of Casey, Paul and Scotty (my personal favorites). She lacked "different."
In a word, her talent was generic. Not downplaying her voice, but more was needed and she didn't deliver, the difference between just okay and totally awesome. Just like writing...
Segue Alert: I see vast comparisons between the singers of American Idol whose talent captures votes as well as the eye of music promoters, record labels and buyers, and writers whose work catches the eye of literary agents, editors and readers. Contestants of Idol need to stand out. Writers of fiction need to do the same. Talent is the common denominator, but I feel it's also necessary to bring something different to the equation. In the case of Idol, singers with a distinct voice coupled with the ability to touch listeners deeply while taking a risk seems to garner the most votes, and the same goes for writers.
Like the surviving Idol contestants, I find that I'm taking chances and writing not to appeal to the norm, but to excite those looking for different. The same-old same-old has a following, but are those generic works memorable? Are their characters warped, disheveled, have a broken nose but still get the girl? Does the plot make the reader say, "Damn, that's the coolest idea ever?"
Sometimes a person needs to strap on a set in order to move ahead of the pack. This is how I view Casey, Paul and Scotty of Idol. When I close my eyes and listen I know who they are, and when I watch and see Casey with his stand-up bass, Paul with his wonky way of dancing and Scotty who is doing a stellar job bringing back smooth cross-over country, well, I just see a three-way coming in the end (win, that is).
And as a writer I tend to do the same thing, strapping on the set God forgot to give me and letting 'er rip, diving into the parts of my gray matter where all the different twists and angles live. Playing it safe in writing is like a paranoia, checking to make sure all rules followed at all times rather than shaking it up and letting it roll, an unexpected outcome worth the scary risk of doing something extraordinarily out of the ordinary.
Why settle for keeping in step when breaking into a fast sprint puts the parade miles behind you? Risks are for winners. Long live the risk-takers! Be the bright brushstroke on the beige canvas - kick it up or remain, for lack of a better word, just "meh."