It is not unusual for me to worry about the originality of my ideas.
It’s kind of a strange worry because publishing houses actually like it when a story can be marketed as “if you liked this you’ll love…” but every writer wants to be offering something new. If all author’s merely copied what had come before then there wouldn’t be much of a publishing industry in the first place.
When I was at university we learned about various famous definitions throughout history of what made up a story, everything from Aristotle to Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots, but thinking about stories and writing which fit into ‘models’ can be a little disheartening when you are attempting to write something that is yours. It does, however, come in handy when you’re writing about the structure of fiction in an academic essay.
I also did an entire semester learning about genre fiction: recognising stories by the ‘type’ of fiction that they are. Again, a method used heavily in marketing. (Don’t get me wrong, that class was SO much fun and interesting – I loved the creativity involved in our assignments. I’m still happy about my steampunk short story.)
Every writer that I know has the same kind of worries that I do about originality. Nobody wants to put hours and hours of work into something, only to be told in the end that it wasn’t as innovative as they hoped.
Getting caught up in this worry stops me from writing sometimes. It’s a flaw I’m trying hard to work on because I love to write and I don’t want to let my anxiety get in the way.
Coming up with new ideas for a story is a big part of the fun for me because I adore the start of the process. Discussing new ideas was one of the best parts of my university classes, especially because my classmates were just as interested as I was. I had some of my best experiences with this type of brainstorming during my classes on The Playwright’s Craft.
Getting the balance between comfortingly familiar and excitingly new is a talent all in itself but it’s not the most important part of writing to me (even if my worries make this factor stand out sometimes). A lot of people/sites say that writing is the important part of writing but, I don’t think it’s that either. Personally, I believe that the ideas are the important part of writing. It’s the beginning. If you have an idea that you want to put into words then you’ve already started to think like a writer.
Refinement can come next or later.
Yet, if you’re worried about the originality of your story, it’s not just the idea that you should be focusing on. Everything from the narrator’s voice to unique chapter titles can identify your story as something original. So, if you try to remember that your story is inventive then I’ll try to do the same.
Following on from last week’s post, if you are starting out and you want to write about the basics of heroes and villains there is this great TED talk on YouTube about the pattern of the heroes’ journey: What Makes A Hero?