My brother-in-law is a high school band director, with a special love for marching band. While I don't get home very often, and have only seen his band march across the football field once, I regularly hear friends and family gush about his talent and how he's transformed his school's program. They brag bro-in-law doesn't just buy the kits for his marching band, but rather designs their routines from scratch.
Impressive, huh? Actually, I have no idea. Having spent most of my life as an orchestra nerd, I know next-to-nothing about bands, and even less about marching.
But I know my bro-in-law is super smart, and I can imagine some of the difficulties involved in choreographing an entire band with a homemade script. It makes me think of cooks who dare to ater recipes, or even create their own. Or writers. Ah, you see where I'm going now?
Plenty of writers use "kits", in one form or another. They use existing folklore, monsters, and cultures. They use a formulaic plot (have you ever noticed that every single PD James mystery has three deaths?), or common storytelling tropes, or stereotypical characters.
Of course, no piece of art is entirely unique. Everyone is using a kit of some sort, as we build on stories that were told before, or tropes that play out in our world, or even our world itself as a backdrop.
But in commercial fiction, kits are much more common. Publishers like known tropes because they're more predictable and marketable. Readers like kits for many of the same reasons; they're familiar, and therefore comforting. And for writers, it's certainly easier to invent a zombie using George Romero's template, or a paranormal romance using Stephenie Meyer's plot points. But of course, you know Romero and Meyer's names because they didn't follow a kit themselves, but rather did something unique in their storytelling.
So as I'm agonizing over the rules of Project Demo's world once again, trying to make everything consistent and logical, I think it would certainly be easier to buy the kit. But my artistic (and stubborn) self continues to insist on doing it the hard way. Actually it occurs to me, perhaps that tension between kit and individuality marks the best writing.
Regardless, do you ever wish you could just buy the kit?