Wednesday, November 2, 2011

One Creator—or Forgettable

To rise above a certain mediocre level, creative works must be fashioned by a single individual—or, to put it more gently, the core creation must be by one person even when the work is later translated into, say, a movie or a television series. In that translation, in turn, it is important that the direction/production of the piece—quite a different kind of creativeness—also be in the hands of a single person with requisite talents. Regarding this last point, I’m thinking of Masterpiece Theater pieces or the Mystery series that have come to us principally from the BBC. Those that genuinely succeed were made from novels or stories. Some of these have succeeded so well that, later, other authors have produced new segments “based on the characters created by [fill in the blank].” The “characters” very often do carry the series forward well beyond the original author’s living work, but a kind of “fade” becomes obvious eventually. Series based on a “concept” reducible to a page—to help sell the idea—and then executed by a “stable” of writers is invariably and by design something second rate.


  1. That definitely does seem to be true. I think it's because creative works need to develop some kind of coherent inner logic, and it's impossible to see that by committee. It's like trying to make roses by pasting bits of different roses together.

    The scholastics used to talk about the three transcendental attributes of being: the one, the true, and the good. Later some added the beautiful. We always talk about beauty in creative works, and sometimes goodness, and sometimes truth; unity seems often to have been shortchanged. But you're surely right that it's as essential a part of the excellence of a creative work as the other three.

  2. Your mention of “unity” reminds me of Aristotle’s three unities for tragedy (action, place, and time) — and the controversies concerning that teaching, i.e., Shakespeare’s violation of place and time. But Shakespeare did not violate the meaningful unity of the creative idea, energy, and power. Aristotle looked from without, Sayers from within — as you’ve noted elsewhere. In commercial art Sayers’ three are chopped apart, farmed out, with predictable results.