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WW Asks

November 15, 2010

I don’t have much to update, writing-wise, so I figured I’d chop up Wannabe Writers a bit. I’ll only be answering the questions every week.

Is any idea really original?

NO… and yes.

It depends on what you’re really asking. Is any base idea original? The basics of the foundation of a story? I’d have to say nay. However, it’s the materials, framing, and choice of adhesive you choose (cement, glue, etc.) that make something unique. You can easily dissect any work of fiction and find something familiar, and likely, cliche, at the bottom of it.

There are many common basic ideas. Here are some classics:

  • Love between the lowly and the super duper. Super, super basic. Somehow, authors manage to twist this idea around enough to make readers come back for more and more. (Think: Jane Austen)
  • Impossible love story. An angle falls for a mortal. A ghost falls for someone alive. A vampire falls for a mopey, pale girl with low self esteem…
  • Underdog triumph. Despite being poor, of unfortunate birth, and having terrible hygiene, she/he triumphs over the system/nasty politician/gang leader/people’s judgments.

So… Pride and Prejudice, Twilight, and The Blind Side. Alright, alright, so none of those three match the ideas perfectly, but…

That’s the point. If they did, they would not only be boring, but sickeningly cliche and corny. What made those books/movies special were the characters/plot twists/settings/what have you.

What writers and storytellers do is take the basic ideas that entertain and fascinate people and make them new. Shine them, bend them backwards, and give them a new paint job. Writers are the dog whisperers that teach old dogs (old ideas) new tricks.

No ideas are wholly original. We ran out of those. They were endangered creatures from the start. However, we are original. I am not you and you are not me and he is neither of us. We have unique takes on classic ideas, opinions of what should have happened, and character voices that are drowning our own voice in our heads.

These things bring The Blind Side from just another football movie to the sort of movie that makes men cry. Brought Twilight from just another YA novel to YA novel that mad fangirls out of people around the world. They brought Harry Potter from orphan underdog to boy wizard – and there’s an original story.

Basic ideas aren’t original. But people are.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 16, 2010 3:15 AM

    So true!! Great post.

    Love it: “Shine them, bend them backwards, and give them a new paint job. Writers are the dog whisperers that teach old dogs (old ideas) new tricks.”

    It’s not the idea that’s original per se, but they way the writer tells it. To make a truly “unique” story, the writer has to add in his/her own unique twist — something distinguishes the story from the others like it. Harry Potter was in an amazing, complex world of wizards. Twilight had a love interest that both wants to eat and to love his lady.

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