Tuesday, July 26, 2011

You Are Not Original

I am going to tell you something as a writer that you won't like. You are not a unique, special snowflake. Or, at the very least, your writing isn't. Especially fiction writing. Maybe if you are reviewing a movie or book and you happen to be the first one, maybe you can think about claiming to be unique, but your critiques are probably ideas that have been thought before, about different books, movies or what have you.

There is no such thing as an original idea.

Now, doesn't that make you feel a teeniest bit better? I mean, really, this blog most is mostly for my fiction writing companions, but it can also be true for non fiction writers. However, I'm going to focus largely on fiction writing for this. Because that's when this becomes a pet peeve of mine.

Haven't you ever read those posts by various people that are upset that [insert author here] didn't give credit to their inspiration? That they really aren't that original?

Personally, I get tired of it.

Humans have been telling stories since, well, since they could communicate with each other. Stories have been woven by man and woman alike for millennium. The idea that it is even possible to come up with an entirely new and unique story seems a bit ridiculous to me. I know someone that continuously tries to prove me wrong on this point, and every time he fails.

And I don't understand why people get upset by this fact. In fact, I consider it a relief whenever I am writing and I tell myself 'You don't have to try to create something so unique and so different that it's shocking. All you have to do is make is believable: make it real.'

Making it Real

Now, when I say making it real is more important that making it original, what I mean is that the issue with writing is not the originality of the idea or of the story, but how it connects with the readers. Famous playwright William Shakespeare was by no means the first person to write about star crossed lovers (ever read Tristan and Isolde?), but he did so in a way that connected with the readers and the play goers and there he found success.

So how can you better connect with your readers? With people. People that seem real, and believable. Whether or not they feel that they can connect with the main character is not the immediate issue, because people will find what they like in the characters for themselves. But if the character seems like a real person, then they'll want to read more about them, about their life. High action works well for movies, where you can enjoy the special effects and action for action's sake, but in writing, especially in a world where there are many people who would prefer to watch TV than curl up with a good book, it's the characters that make people want to read the story.

Don't misunderstand, however, the plot and the action is also very important, as no matter how wonderful your character is, without a direction for the story, it can read more like a psychological study than a well thought novel. I think the book Plot vs. Character illustrates this the best, and helps explain why you need to balance the plot and the character development in your story.

So stop worrying about being the most original writer that ever existed.

And focus more on being a better writer.

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