It always amazes me when humans try to quantify the unquantifiable. Or attempt to reproduce the irreproducible.
Answer me this…
How do you quantify genius?
How do you reproduce inspiration?
In a new book called, Hit List, writer James W. Hall asks…is there a formula for a best-seller and can it be duplicated at will? To get to the answer he analyzes 12 of the biggest blockbusters ever – Gone With the Wind, Peyton Place, To Kill a Mockingbird, Valley of the Dolls, The Godfather, The Exorcist, Jaws, The Dead Zone, The Hunt for Red October, The Firm, The Bridges of Madison County and The Da Vinci Code – and comes up, according to this piece, “with 12 common features to the point where they are permutations of one book, written again and again for each new generation of readers.”
Ultimately, of course, he concludes that commonality or formulaic replication does not equal automatic success. Duh! In essence, you can identify the ingredients to a winning recipe, but that doesn’t guarantee the soup will be tasty.
Substitute “best-seller” with other superlative creative output – hit song, master painting, what have you – and the conclusion will be the same. There are definite rules to screenwriting, for instance. All hit films share a formula – Act I (set-up,) Act II (confrontation,) and Act III (resolution) – but that doesn’t mean that Transformers will be as good a movie as Prometheus.
Basically, we’re hell-bent on harnessing that which cannot be harnessed – the intangible. In a way, that unending quest is to be admired but, ultimately, it’s futile.
And that’s a good thing.
If everyone was able to turn crap into gold…gold wouldn’t be that special now would it?