Are We Recycling? Or Really Thinking?

As I’ve been searching through several cool books on Amazon in the last few days, I’ve been considering something interesting. How do we writers make our stories so different from other stories before us? Or are we simply recycling them in some way?

Don’t get me wrong, nobody is getting accused of plagiarism, don’t panic! I’m thinking of something different. I remember being told a long time ago at primary school, by a lovely English teacher, that a story I wrote was very like one she had seen somewhere in a children’s book. I was quite upset, and pretty threw a small tantrum, muttering something under my breath. She laughed and told me not to worry about it, that it was actually a good thing. By copying it unconsciously, it meant I had read lots of books, the integral part of being a successful writer.

While that made me happy that I well on the way to being the next Stephen King, it made me worry that no-one would ever find my stories interesting if they had already read it elsewhere in a different form. Surely, I thought, the point of writing is to aim for a reach that holy grail of writing, the Original Idea?

At least it is for me, and maybe it’s a ridiculous thing to aim for. Every time I see a story that is even slightly like mine in plotline, I have to change my entire manuscript. I want to have that single book that no-one has read yet, the one that they read and gasp, “I didn’t even realise how much I wanted to read this!” But perhaps my books are always going to be a little similar to others, especially as it slips neatly into the Paranormal Fantasy/Romance genres, meaning it must have similarities to other books.

But maybe that’s a good thing? All writers and readers head towards the end of the novel with two thoughts; to find out what happens, and the unconscious desire to make the characters come to life. When a reader hits the last page, and nobody has leapt out brandishing a sword, or sweeping past the flatscreen in their crinoline dress, they need that feeling again. So they start another book with similar characters, hoping this might be the one to jumpstart them out from the pages.

Also, it’s a known fact that with all of the literature and art that has been produced in the past few hundred years, some ideas will repeat. We sometimes refer back to these ideas for inspiration; I even listen to music to inspire me as I write, and you could argue I could use an idea form the song and put it into my novel.

So perhaps we should always aim for the perfect Original Idea for our novels, but not worry too much about unconsciously using an idea from a book from several decades ago. After all, they do say that mimicking is the best of flattery!

What do you think? Or did I lose you somewhere in the waffle? 🙂

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