The Myth of "Originality"
How many times have you halted an idea for not being "original" enough? How many times have you seen others complain that their ideas aren't "original" enough? No matter what number popped into your mind, it's irrelevant because there are truly no new ideas. However, and stay with me here, there are new approaches to old concepts.
I'm no Stephanie Meyer fan but I would be a liar if I did not acknowledge that her books rocked the YA contemporary fantasy genre for their new take on vampires and werewolves. Her vampires sparkled and her werewolves were actually rooted (loosely, I used that term loosely) in Indigenous shifter lore.
Now lets use her books and branch out to other novels that use similar concepts. Right off the top of my head, I'm recalling the Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs when I think of something resembling the shifter aspect and the fifty other mopey vampire novels that came out directly after Twilight's success.
Think of ALL the YA, and briefly categorized NA, dystopian novels that came out right after The Hunger Games crashed into shelves.
My point is, stop stressing about being "original" and start stressing about getting your ideas fleshed out and typed up. Let me take you through my tale of woe with the battle against what has been done and why my worry over it was absolutely pointless.
When I presented my contemporary/urban fantasy idea to my boyfriend he immediately drew several parallels to RPG's he's played over the years. He did not draw these connections to the plot overall but to some of the character arcs presented. I was a wreck. I had never played those games (we have VERY different tastes in games) and yet here I was
writing similar characters. How dare I? How dare my brain do this?!
So I decided to go in and rework these characters. Surprise, it made them worse. They no longer fit into the story in a logical way and I was not about to scrap the idea because this story idea was the first one I loved enough to carry through to the end. This was years before I sat down to actually start the writing process.
Now, as I move through The Writer's Roadmap and workshop this with my beloved Critique Partners, I am so glad I kept all of the old idea files for this story because they worked. I have a banger on my hands not because it is the most original idea to ever be thought but because my voice, passion and love are in it. No one can replicate that.
Bookmark this in the event that AI takes over and starts replicating authors' prose to the letter.
So, how do you fight off the suffocating thoughts of being "unoriginal?"
Remember a few things:
No one is 100% original anymore. It cannot be done. If your project is going to be compared to something make sure it's a good comparison. When authors or screenwriters pitch new projects they will often say "this is a combination of _____ and _____" and they use this as a selling point. I'm not far enough along to have two comparisons for my book but take Tomi Adeyemi's novel Children of Blood and Bone. She pitched it as if The Black Lives Matters movement and Avatar The Last Airbender has a baby. She had a massive movie deal before her first book his the shelves. Use these comparisons to your advantage. The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter is blurbed as being a mash up of Game of Thrones and Gladiator. Do you think Evan Winter is mad about that? No, because that is a great selling point. Sidebar, I just picked up this novel and WOW! Read it.
I stress this point, no one can take your voice or your style of writing. Your voice as a creator is what matters more because that adds nuance to the project, it adds flavor. When you have fifty dystopian novels with the same general plot and the same framework of characters it is the author's execution that matters the most. Think about how much you would change a book you have read, any book, and realize that by changing certain details and adding your voice that you have effectively started creating a completely different story. Voice, execution, and your views matter.
Finally, use what comes to you. You like dragons, great! Put some dragons in your retelling of Little Women. Has that been done before? I have no clue but, I like dragons and would probably read it despite not watching or reading any of the other Little Women adaptions. Your ideas are gold. Figure out how to shine them.
That all being said, I am just woman sitting in front of her computer typing frantically. If you fall into that category, I wish you luck on your journey no matter what project you are feverishly trying to complete.
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