Updated: Feb 10, 2020
Once upon a time, I thought I had the ability to write an original story. My Faerietales series was proof of that.
I mean, how many people write magic-less fantasy books? Seriously.
Once upon a time, I couldn’t think of any. And even if I could, how many people write magic-less fantasy books about modern-day faeries?
Once upon a time, I really was certain the answer was one. And that one was me.
In my defense, I never set out to write an original story. It wasn’t something I ever aimed for.
But when I did start thinking about it, I’ll admit it was rather cool to consider myself so very creative and free-thinking.
Until I found out that I’m not. There is, in fact, another series out there that is very similar to my own.
Don’t ask me what it’s called. I’ve conveniently forgotten such details since. However, I haven’t forgotten that I’m not so very special after all.
Nor should I.
It actually makes my writing a life a whole lot easier if I don’t forget that fact. It's less stress on my shoulders trying to accomplish something that might not be accomplishable at all.
Trying to write an original story is probably – if not definitely – going to be one giant, frustrating waste of your time. To the point where, in my opinion, it's not worth it at all.
Don’t worry about being original.
Too many writers want to produce the next great, original novel: something that leaves the publishing world in awe and history officially marked. Yet there’s really nothing new under the sun when almost every plot, if not all of them, can be boiled down to the same basic storylines.
Not to worry though. It’s what an individual author can do with those unoriginal ideas that makes him or her stand out. Focus less on being groundbreaking and more on being coherent, evocative and engaging to give yourself a better chance of finishing strong.
Consider it this way.
Every single one of us writers is born on the same big, round planet. And while we can be broken down by category: nationality, gender, skin color, age, socioeconomic status, experience, religion, etc…
We’re still ultimately human with the same emotions, expressions and desires. That’s why people talk about “the human experience.” Despite all our differences, our bottom-line natures are exactly the same.
Ipso facto, despite all our differences, our bottom-line creations aren’t going to vary much either.
Again, you are can try to write an entirely original story. That’s your prerogative. But there’s a
good case to be made that your efforts are going to fail.
According to The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker, there are an intensely limited number of story concepts out there.
Even if you don’t though, try making your own list of entirely original story ideas. Once you do, you might have to admit that they’re not all that entirely original after all.
Aren’t they all centered around romantic relationships, getting the bad guy, saving the world, understanding the world and/or obtaining the world (i.e., getting rich and powerful)?
So, for your own well-being, don’t set out to write an original story. Take these wise words to heart instead:
Just because a story’s been told before doesn’t mean it’s not worth telling again.
Just because a story’s been told before doesn’t mean it’s not worth telling again with different characters, settings and dialogue.
Just because a story’s been told before doesn’t mean it’s not worth telling in your voice.
Ultimately, your voice should mean a whole lot more than whether or not you can write an original story anyway.
Editor’s Note: Read the next post on writing a novel here.