To say it's impossible to come up with an original story is to say what Charlies H. Duell (U.S. Commissioner of Patents) said back in 1899, "Everything that can be invented has been invented." In his defense, he later did come back and say that anything new that would be invented would simply be an improvement on what's already be made, but not original. Either way, He obviously misunderstood the power of electricity and everything that has evolved from it. But here I am, 113 years later, typing words on a computer, in a blog, on a portable device; that in a few seconds could be broadcasted across the world throughout a network of computers for anyone with an internet connection to view. So if 113 years ago someone thought that there would never be anything new, that every great idea has already been formulated, yet we know today that couldn't be further from the truth, then it is possible that every great story has yet to be told, as much as it may appear that Hollywood is running low on originality.
So what is that story? What would it look like? Where would it take place? Trying to think of an example of a story that comes across as completely original, I thought I succeeded in a few novels or movies, but only discovered that every story is either a remake of a story several years ago or reflected another story in a different time period or put a twist on an ancient myth...I can't think of anything that hasn't already be done. How can one know what originality looks like if I can't even discover originality around them. But, perhaps, I'm searching for the wrong kind of originality. Perhaps, it's not about creating something no one has ever read, but simply creating something unique. A person can be unique without being original. Perhaps Charlies H. Duell was right in the sense that electricity has been invented and anything new from this point forward would just be built off of this discovery. So the iPad isn't original, it's just unique (and now copied). So forget originality, let's strive towards being unique.
A unique story, in my opinion, is all about the experience. Lord of the Rings might have revolved around an old legend of powerful rings that once existed to rule nations, but Tolkien took that original legend and crafted an unique experience for his audience. Rowling might not have invented witch craft but she created a unique experience that the world embraced as a fantastic piece of entertainment. StarWars, The Matrix, Halo, Avatar, Narnia, etc. Stories I would define as Epic, aren't original, just unique. So I need to stop crying for originality and start studying what makes my favorite stories so great. What separates these stories from stories of similar nature that fell short of greatness? What is an epic?
One common theme in the above mentioned stories is sacrifice. The main character has to go to some extremely dangerous place and risk everything to save a civilization of one form or another. The MC has to be completely selfless because they usually start off as a stranger to the world they're about to adventure into but discover they are the key to saving it. Funny how the first place I went with my explanation of an epic was characters. Where would The Matrix be without Neil, or Lord of the Rings without Frodo, or StarWars without Luke Skywalker? But something else also sticks out. Also, it's worth mentioning, all of these examples take place in a fantasy world.
From what I've gathered, the recipe for a successful, unique, memorable story, is a combination of a unique character willing to go the distance to save a race in a fantasy environment that is foreign to the character. Of course, there could be more to it than that, and as I being my journey towards crafting such a story, I'm sure there will be a lot more research required. So further investigation will be required. But for now, I have the bases to get started.
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