Revisiting the Fresh and New

March 18th, 2011

AKA Are You an Original or Do You Follow the Beaten Path and Make It Your Own?

While working on a project with my 8-year-old son, I came to realize that being original may not always be the answer.

He had to make a pyramid. It could be constructed out of anything. Most students were using sugar cubes or marshmallows to create their pyramids. My son and I decided to be different – we would use Q-tips and cotton balls.

Original? Yes. Easy? No way.

When writing short contemporary, we’re told that many of the stories have already been told. It’s the characters and who they are that sets the stories apart from each other.

But, how can that be? I don’t see any Sil. Desires with wedding planners or Blazes with babies. A wedding planner might not be awkward in a Desire, but I have a distinct feeling an unexpected baby would change the tone of a Blaze.

Can you make a pyramid with coins? Yes, but it would be bulky and not very picturesque.

So I come to realize that it may not necessarily be the originality of the idea but the way the writer tells the story.

Do we have to be original with our stories? Or is it more the uniqueness of our voice that sets us apart?

How do you add something original to your story?

Abbi :-)

154 days

8 Responses to “Revisiting the Fresh and New”

  1. Chelsea Finch says:

    Abbi, you always make me stop and think because we have such a totally different way of looking at things. I think originality is something I’ve relaxed into, over time. I spent so much time trying to get my writing to resemble (vaguely) what I was reading in the line I was aiming for. But trying – with every sentence – to get the tone right, the amount of dialogue correct, the setting appropriate etc left little room for originality.

    And then, when I was casually driving along one day, my brain supplied a complete plot, characters, set up, location etc. And I hurried home to write it, deliberately keeping the parameters broad. The result was nothing like I’d read before, and neither has anything been since. They’re lifted fresh off the top of my head… and no-one else has (or would want) access to what’s going on there. I think I could’ve tapped that resource earlier, if I’d had more confidence. Originality was my reward for trusting my instincts – which’ve failed before and will again :-)

  2. Kat Cantrell says:

    Wow. That’s a really interesting point. I’m struggling to answer your question because I always thought it had to be both an original story *and* voice. But you’re right, it can’t be COMPLETELY original or even semi-original if you’re writing to specific guidelines like HQN has. The lines are branded a certain way on purpose, so the reader knows exactly what they’re getting. If they didn’t want that kind of story, they’d buy something else.

    So now I’m on the side of voice. The story is by nature not going to be original at its core, but your voice always will be. Now, if I could figure out what that magic is, I’d be rich, right? :)

  3. Maisey Yates says:

    Well, really, all narrative has structure. Within that, different genres follow a structure. And even in literature they teach that there are a finite number of plots.

    Voice is truly the thing that makes something unique. Voice and your unique take. Your background, you beliefs, and your characters. That’s what brings the different.

  4. Lacey Devlin says:

    I’m totally distracted here but is there a picture of the Pyramid of cotton balls and Q tips? I can just imagine the torture of getting it straight!

  5. I think the best stories to read are the ones that are familiar — almost. They are the stories you have heard before with a twist. Sometimes it’s a clever twist on the trope. Sometimes a fresh voice is really all it takes to make the story new all over again.

  6. I’m also disappointed the picture of the truly amazing pyramid wasn’t included!

    I beleive the originality we bring to our stories is us.

    Writers who set out to write original stories can potentially bomb, because they are missing those universal elements that must be present in our stories. Writers who bring their own unique voice and even slightly warped way of looking at things to the essential elements of the line or genre will eventually succeed.

    We can set ourselve up to fail two ways, IMO. trying to be too different can results in stories the reader just can’t connect to, trying to follow all the “rules” can result in dead lifeless stories.

    Abbi, anyone who can build a pyramid out of cotton buds and cotton balls is naturally an original and creative thinker!

  7. Cat Schield says:

    I love this topic. I think that writers struggle to be original and end up making their characters interesting on the outside and forgetting that what makes them fascinating is what drives them to behave a certain way. Their hopes, dreams and fears are what make them unique, not an interesting career or the clothes they wear.

RSS feed for comments on this post. And trackBack URL.

Leave a Reply