The Novel Approach – Originality

I’ve talked about archetypes and how to avoid clichés in the dark romantic parts of the fiction world. As writers we struggle with one huge concept that’s incredibly important: originality.

We soon come to the sad truth that something can never come from nothing. An idea doesn’t come from this cloud that is a brain without material funneling into it. Our plots, our characters, our major themes are all inspired by bits and pieces of other texts, movies, songs, personal experiences. The list goes on. The fact is nothing is purely original. Perhaps the first cave drawing or the first story told by mouth could have been the example of perfect originality. However, our job, as little growing novelists or perhaps poets or short story writers, is to add something to the body made up of every novel written ever.

That’s an extremely daunting task. Especially when we consider that out of this collection of thousands and thousands of works every story, every major theme, and every character has been covered and written about ten times over. Before you get all huffy, think about it really carefully. I don’t mean your story to the very last detail of your plot. I mean your general storyline.

For example, my current novel which has changed since the last time I talked about it (I’ll save that for a different post) is a spy story where two countries are in a power struggle, a young man is growing up, a girl is seeking revenge, and two people are falling in love. All of that has been done before.

I’ve got the shining rainbow in this rather dismal picture, so pay attention.

The reason I’m not that bothered by all of this is something an English teacher told me: “No one has told the story the way you will.”

No one has combined the set of events I have combined. No one has used my set of characters. No one has written the way I will write. Our individuality is our originality.

I have been flipping through some old notebooks recently. My young self wasn’t original at all which, from everything I’ve observed, is completely normal. I’m not sorry about those cute little stories that were basically stolen from Disney movies. Imitating that which you admire is the beginning of finding yourself.

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