I actually tweeted this little story idea several months ago, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it deserves a closer look.
The idea is to take the basic structure of Roald Dahl’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and use it to create a simple science fiction story, substituting Willy Wonka’s bizarre creations for genuinely interesting science fiction ideas and inventions.
In our version of the story, Willy Wonker would be an inventor on the cutting edge of science. His inventions have brought him much fame, but the inventions currently under development in his huge laboratory are even more revolutionary – if a little unpredictable. Think of him as a mentally unstable Steve Jobs, with degrees in quantum physics and astrophysics.
I also like the idea that our version of Willy Wonka is an alien. He could be the only member of his species living on Earth. This would explain his superior scientific knowledge. (If you are thinking of using this as a twist at the end of the story, don’t – it’s a bad twist.) Perhaps ‘Alien Wonka’ is employed by Earth’s military to create new weapons for the defense of the planet. Rather than children, it could be a number of high-ranking generals that visit his laboratory instead.
Isn’t This Obvious Plagiarism?
Ok, so this is a very transparent use of another person’s idea. People are bound to notice the similarity, but that’s alright. Some readers might actually see the familiar storyline as part of your storys charm, depending on how well you use it.
It’s only plagiarism if you directly copy Roald Dahl’s original plot and ideas. We’re only borrowing the basic format and structure of his story, and writers do that all the time. Just be careful not to borrow too much, and be sure to add plenty of your own ideas.
When you think about it, this really is a very useful format for exploring a string of science fiction ideas and inventions. It allows you to quickly demonstrate each idea, show it going wrong, and move on to the next. I see no reason why you shouldn’t use it yourself, so long as you have some genuinely interesting science fiction ideas to use.
Oompa Loompa Or No Oompa Loompa?
The biggest question with this story idea has to be whether or not you should include the Oompa Loompas. My gut instinct tells me the answer should be ‘no’. The Oompa Loompas are too much of a signature of the original story, and you will want to avoid turning this into a spoof. (Turning the Oompa Loompas into aliens would be too much of a cliché – don’t do it.)