This will flag comments for moderators to take action.
Fiction writers talk shop and discuss works in progress. All genres welcome!
Posted: 3/27/2015 2:01 PM PST
Originality. What a concept. To come up with something so different that nobody has ever even considered it... how wonderful that would be.
It would be, right? OK, yeah. A truly original idea would be a wonder. But you might want to ask yourself this:
If you were to write something so unique, so original, that the idea has never occurred to another human being, what makes you think that a reader will understand what you are talking about?
There has to be an anchor in everything you write. There must be at least one thread of shared cultural reality for your reader to latch onto.
That said, I don't think being "original" is all that difficult. I'll go one further than that, No serious writer would copy another writer's work word for word, now, would they? Remember that you, as the writer, bring a unique experience to the table when you write. As much shared culture as we have (thank you TV and movies), we still, each of us, see the world in slightly different ways. It is our background, our vocabulary, or ability to speak and listen, and how we react to the world that sets us apart, and by the same token, sets our writing apart from that of others.
My advice is don't worry so much about the originality of the idea, but put your time and work into the crafting of the best version of the story you can writer. When you do that, I don't think you can help being creative and original.
Posted: 7/27/2013 2:51 PM PDT
If you google this, and I have, you will find that the general consensus is that there are only 7 basic plots in literature. So, the idea isn't how to come up with an original plot but how you can get from point A to point B in a unique way. There's a variety of things you can do each demanding your own creativity.
The straight line from A to B is a sequence of events. One thing that is done, is to make each successive event more challenging than the previous. Lots of fantasy is like this. Young boy or girl is chased from their home. They discover they have some kind of power and the grow into it over time, defeating subsequently more dangerous adversaries.
You can layer plots and subplots like Game of Thrones.
You can divert the path, side tracking the protagonist then bring them back. Do you remember the episode "The Path Not Taken" in "Fringe" I wish they had taken one of those paths. lol. I got tired of the show after the 3rd year.
How about a twist here or there? The good guy is really a bad guy or the bad guy is really a good guy. Any GoT follower now knows that Jamie Lanister is not as bad as we thought. The kingslayer saved a whole city from burning, though he did try to kill Bran. I still can't put him on my good guy list.
I guess the bottom line is that once you've decided on the basic plot, the easy part is done.
Posted: 5/28/2013 2:26 PM PDT
I do. All I have to say is originality is key.
Posted: 3/30/2013 1:06 PM PST
It seems we've been here before but here goes:
There are a number of ways to go about it.
1. Take an old theme and turn its on its head: The Montagues and Capulets have been trying to arrange a marriage between their two scions, Romeo and Juliet, to attempt to end the feud between their families that has been going on for generations. But their efforts are in vain. Romeo isn't interested because he has the hots for one of the Pope's nephews and Juliet is madly in love with one of her mum's upstairs maids. Will the feud end, will Romeo and Juliet ever get together? Read on.
2. Take an old theme and place it in a different setting. 'Romeo and Juliet' has been the theme for countless Westerns and very successfully in 'West Side Story'. Remember, too, that Shakespeare borrowed themes from other writers.
3. Pick an incident from your own life and turn it into a 'What if?' story. What if you had taken that job in another town? What if you had married your high school sweetheart instead of that somebody else? What if you had decided to become a brain surgeon instead of whatever it is you do now?
4. Pick an incident from history that the world knows little about and make up a story about what might have happened. Bernard Cornwell, in his 'Sharpe' series, used this technique: he looked at a number of incidents from the Napoleonic Wars and wrote 'What if?'
5. How did the Marie Celeste end up drifting in the sea with nobody on board?
6. Boy loses girl. Boy finds girl. Boy loses girl.
7. Some of it depends on your chosen genre. My 'The Bureau of Happiness' started with a very simple premise: imagine you were sitting at your desk one day and two solicitors turned up at your door to inform you you were now the richest person in the world because you ended up owning 77 acres in Lower Manhattan bequeathed to you by a long-dead ancestor (Google 'Edwards the pirate' for the basis for this).
8. If your genre is science fiction think about this: Apparently nobody has invented a time machine any time in the future because if they had, they would have gone back in time to visit us (and nobody has so far).
9. Imagine if you could go back to the time you were five years old and live your life over. Knowing what you know now, what would do differently?
10. If you're interested in conspiracies or survivalist themes, check out some of their fora for bags of ideas.
11. Pick some really, totally obnoxious person you know and imagine something truly bad happening to her or him.
12. The perfect crime has already been committed. Because it's a perfect crime, we don't know anything about it.
I think you have the idea. There are stories all around you; just open your mind to them.
Don't be concerned too much about creating something totally original, just concentrate on telling a good story and the rest will follow naturally.
All the best with your writing.
Posted: 7/10/2011 10:15 AM PDT
My thoughts of orignality...well it's hard to explain them all.
I believe everything has been done before—in a way. We've all heard of the same story line over and over again. We've all witnessed that type of character growth before. We've all read that plot.
But then again. All of these stories have different twists or characters. They have a different setting or time. They have a different style or new perspective.
You see, it's just theh way you look at it. :)
Posted: 10/31/2010 5:00 PM PST
Yes, I said "ignored for ions", of course I meant EONS, ha.
Posted: 10/31/2010 4:59 PM PST
Hagenpiper makes a lot of good points. Originality is one of the old gods of the fantasy worlds, one that was ignored for ions and has faded into the background, obscuring himself from all that seek his wisdom and guidance. Now forcing his would-be followers to write in darkness and without the knowledge of knowing if what they write is new and exciting. Now we follow the bastard gods of Ease, Cliche, and of Vacillation - all led by Reality (the brother of Originality and murder of Imagination).
I really don't know where that all came from, guess I just wanted to post something.
Anyways, stories have been being written for centuries - anyone is going to be hard-pressed to write a completely original story (if even possible). Do your best to write something that is just not a complete copy of someone else's story and do what you can to add some flare here and there to make your story stand out. If you are going to write a space opera try to create some new and interesting locales and inhabitants. Avoid a singular religious group that has voiced an oath to defend the entire universe from evil, where of course key members of said group become evil. The splinter group, of course, would become the rival of their old comrades and bring a seemingly endless war to the already violent universe.
Try to add some unique aspect to your story, be a single character, speices, group that has some followers, creatures, etc. Something that only your story has. By doing this you have paid homage to the Old God.
Posted: 10/29/2010 6:14 PM PDT
You cannot write something totally original. But you can be an idiot and write something too similar to what someone else has written, all the while thinking you can get away with it.
Having said that, being original in the fantasy genre is theoretically easy and practically impossible. Advice - buck the trends - they're obvious and easy to see. With trends come cliche's. Buck the trends - avoid cliches, and you'll be original. Avoid Tolkien's ideas - do NOT walk in his footsteps - he'll squash you. Repeat, do NOT. No elves. No swords of destiny. No mysterious wizards. No dark lords. No single magic item with the power to determine the fate of all. Avoid it. Think - come up with something new. Something cool. Think.
Perhaps consider this:
1.) Take Faulkner's advice and tell a story about *people*. Make it about people. Who they are - what they do - how they change - how they grow.
2.) Make your characters gray. (not all good or all bad). To grow - a protagonist must start low. To be believable, an antagonist must fall from grace - s/he must start high. Development, drama, passion.
3.) Ensure that the story is a natural development of your setting and world (therein lie your creativity - fun and fantastic setting - be creative - come up with something wild - think.)
4.) Show your characters changing as a result of their world and the people in it - for better or worse. Everything that happens must be a natural consequence of the fantasy world in which they live. Absolutely EVERYTHING. That makes the story "fantasy," so the snot-nosed critics can't say "it could just as well have taken place in NYC."
That's at least my take on it. But then maybe I'm full of @#$% - I'm not published, what the hell do I know. LOL.
Posted: 10/26/2010 1:30 PM PDT
The site blog has an interesting piece on this with particular reference to The Social Network movie - basically saying it's not a particularly original or surprising plot, with characters who act in fairly predictable ways, but it still manages to be a brilliantly-told and very entertaining story.
Contrary to what you say, though, I think there could still be mileage in any of those stories you mention, provide you find a new angle on them - the teenage girl falls in love with the vampire because on the inside she's even more vicious and psychotic than he is. That'd be an interesting story to tell. You're a basically-good-hearted vampire being stalked by a girl who really just wants the power you can give her. What are you going to do about it? Potential there, surely.
The thing I'm personally wary of is writing stories which only work as a response to another piece of fiction - my short story New Look only really 'works', I think, if you're familiar with how vampire fiction has changed over the last 35 years or so. Another piece of mine is a black satire drawing on C.S. Lewis' Narnia books. You don't want to make your references too obscure.
On the other hand I would draw your attention to the very popular Wicked (though I must say I didn't care for it *that* much myself). It's almost wholly based on a pre-existing, and very well-known piece of fantasy fiction, but it manages to be tonally new and very original.
In general though, don't worry about originality. As long as you love the story you're telling, and you're not consciously aping someone else just because you think that'll make more people read your work, things should be okay. (As long as you spell-check and your grammar is okay.)
Posted: 10/26/2010 11:45 AM PDT
Awix is correct. Write the best story you can--just make it your own and not a copy of someone else's work For instance, don't make it about a teenage girl falling in love with a vampire or a werewolf. Don't make it about a ghost, a werewolf, and a vampire sharing a flat in England. Don't write about about a young wizard fighting evil. Or hobbits fighting evil.
I was once told "there is nothing new under the sun." This means all stories have been told. But the same editor who told me that said that to find something original, you have to look inside yourself, not at what others have done.
So, if all stories have been told, how can you find something original to write about, I asked that editor. His reply was that everyone has a different story to tell--and that story comes from your own experience.
What I can say is write about what you know. Not just the facts and other information you've researched to make your story interesting and realistic, but also what you feel. What you're afraid of, what you love, what you hate--whatever darkness is within you, you must write about it. Whatever light, whatever goodness, whatever joy that is within you, you must write about that, too!
Write about what your family and friends have experienced. Write about what you've experienced. Write about the world--whether you love it, hate it, are afraid of it. Make that the basis of your characters. You must write about humanity, even if your're writing about animals, aliens, or ghosts.
If you leave any or all of that out, then your story is unorignal and most likely lame.
There will be many out here that will argue against all this--they are the ones who are too afraid to reveal their souls. And if you're unwilling to reveal your soul, then you might as well give up writing until you're willing to show the world who you are.
Posted: 10/25/2010 3:52 AM PDT
I worry about 'being original' a lot less than I used to. Seventeen years ago I came up with a vague idea for a novel which I then shelved almost straight away after I found a book with a vaguely similar premise had already come out. I eventually wrote the thing in a much-altered form last Autumn.
I think you can worry about it too much anyway. If, as some claim, there are only a certain number of plots/dramatic situations, then a) you can't be completely original and b) neither can anybody else! So take it easy. If Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings can all be successful using variations on the same storyline then there really isn't much to worry about.
I suppose the problem can be being perceived to be unoriginal - once again, I wrote a short piece of fan-fic many years ago which I sent off to the people who released my stuff, only for another story in the same universe with the same premise to be professionally published about two weeks later. By the time my story was available it looked like a rip-off, even though the structure, plot and characters were entirely different. You can't write any kind of vampire story now without being accused of ripping off Twilight.
There's nothing to be done about it. Just write the best story you can and let the rest take care of itself.
Posted: 10/25/2010 3:41 AM PDT
There are many different levels to originality.
Original twist or surprise.
Original moral lesson.
It is very rare to find a book that has all of these. Most books only have one or two at best these days. However there is also a big difference between being inspired by something and straight out copying that item. For example there have been many books and movies created for the King Arthur and Robin Hood fables however the closer you look at each the farther appart they are to the originals.
The key to writing is personallization. As long as you tell the story in your own way, with your own voice, there will be some originality to it. Make the story yours. Put yourself into the plot, the characters, the moral lesson, the theme. Every point in the book where a choice must be made you are making that choice so be aware and you will create something that is original.
Posted: 10/25/2010 1:05 AM PDT
I hope you'll notice what I did with that Topic Title. An Obvious play on the phrase, "THE QUEST FOR IMMORTALITY".
And that's my point. If I've noticed one thing on this website it is this: that middling writers -- much like myself -- are stymied in their creativity by the so-called necessity to write something and I quote, "Totally Original". I myself hold to the standing that their is nothing original left in this world. Do any of you share this mentality? Do you find you writing to be more freeing if you do?
I myself have never been burdened by the thought of what I write having to be original. However, a lot of the posts and works I read on webook seem strangled by this notion that it needs to be original. My counter argument is this; homage with your own twist ends up being a hundred times better than works driven by the slave-master of originality. [Just look at Tarantino in the film world and J.K.Rowling in literature.]
Anyone else care to comment on this subject? I would like to hear any thoughts, whether on one side or the other.