1. carsun1000
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    carsun1000 Active Member

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    How "Original" is your work?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by carsun1000, Jul 6, 2015.

    Just saw a TV spot for a new NBC show called BLINDSPOT. The show is about a mysterious naked woman who was found in the middle of Time Square (I think) and had names tattooed on body. The names are pretty much related to crimes waiting to be solved. Five years ago, I wrote a book where names were being revealed to an FBI agent to investigate. Every name revealed was also attached to a crime. All names investigated led to an arrest of some sort.

    While the premise for this TV show and my book are different, it suddenly made me realized that us writers with creative minds share a lot in common. When I find situations like this, it always makes me want reevaluate my current works and find an unmatched uniqueness for them. Anyone else feels like they've "seen" their work somewhere else? How original is your story? In order words, are you taking old ideas and adding a few turns here and there to make them "unique" and "original"?
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2015
  2. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I'm a big believer in everything being a remix. Not sure if I buy into the idea that nothing is original/unique anymore, but finding something truly unique would be difficult.

    When I was like ... I don't know, ten or so, I came up with a story about monsters that could only be killed by cutting off their heads. Then I learned about Highlander and was horrified. A few years back I watched the show Alphas and several of its characters and plots were pretty reminiscent of another of my projects, and that was pretty uncomfortable too. But neither my decapitated superbeings nor mutant government agents are beat for beat exactly like Highlanders or the eponymous alphas. You could draw comparisons between them, but if you simply them enough you could compare Beowulf to Fifty Shades. It's all in the details, imo.

    So sure it weirds me out a little and makes me feel a bit shitty and uncreative for a while, but the fact is we're all existing in the same cultural environments, we're influenced by a lot of the same things, even when we don't realize we're being influenced at all. It happens. So I don't stress for too long.
     
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  3. carsun1000
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    carsun1000 Active Member

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    Yeah, situations like these are downers for sure. Makes you question your level of creativity sometimes.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2015
  4. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think my stuff is pretty original - but there's nothing new under the sun and I know the works that I'm drawing from (In my case, the big inspirations are Back to the Future, Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, Michael Chabon's Yiddish Policeman's Union, and Star Trek - with a sprinkling of Ice and Fire and maybe some House of Cards.) I know where I got a lot of those ideas - and in some cases where I purposefully decided to deviate - but I think at the end of the day, I think I've probably churned all of those influences together into something that has DNA from all of those things, but doesn't resemble any of them at first glance.

    Whoever said everything is a remix nailed it. Even if you think you see similarities at first glance, the end product will likely go in a wildly divergent direction.
     
  5. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    Yeah at the end of the day I look a bit like my mum and dad but I'm not either. I work as a stand alone project, I'm unique but similar to friends and family, and humans. The same can be said for novels. We are all made from the same stuff, it's just how you put it together which changes things.
     
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  6. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have seen similar concepts but never seen my work somewhere else. People also say my work is unique. Not sure if you would take the word of people that you haven't met though.

    While I can't argue the position of nothing creative being left. I don't think it adds anything to take that position. I always feel like people are really trying to say. "If only I was born X years ago. When some original ideas where still left." I just laugh at that. Not implying that is your position either.

    Thing is I think people are rating the values in the wrong place.

    A story teller like a painter creates art with established concepts. Us with our tropes and those painters with color. We don't expect painters to create a new color to paint nor do we fault a painter for using blue. So we do we judge writers more harshly?

    At the end of the day people can always point out the trope or theme you share with that other story but what makes your story interesting isn't what it shares but what it doesn't share. In that sense every story is unique to a degree.

    Rant over. Sorry if that seemed rude or out of place. lol
     
  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I'm not sure if my stories are really that original. My sci-fi is basically a mesh of Mass Effect, Babylon 5, Star Trek with a dash of Star Wars. My fantasy either deals with a slave revolt/rebellion against a monarchy or demonic monsters of demonic origins.

    The thing I've observed is that sometimes tropes are overdone. The villain being related to the hero is a classical example. How many times have we seen this happen since Star Wars? What makes it refreshing is how a common trope is turned upside down. A story about a father looking for his son has been done to death. A story about an aunt going through hell and back looking for her niece and nephew? That might be something new.

    If you take common concepts and tropes and twist them upside down, you might find yourself dealing with something new. So I think it's less trying to make your story sound like the story that was never written before, but more about how you use your creativity to exploit or twist common tropes/concepts to looking new. To use the artist example, color is color, but the way it was used on the Mona Lisa is different than the way it was used on American Gothic.
     
  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've been told the concepts I tend to come up with seems unusual (same goes for the way I write). I have no idea if they're truly unique - how would you know anyway since you can't possibly read/watch every book/film out there in the whole world through all of history, or even just the last decade. But off the top of my head, I don't know of any other story quite like my WIP :) I think it could be because I'm bicultural and grew up pretty international and been exposed to a variety of films/comics/books/TV shows from a handful of cultures, as well as being bilingual. Sometimes perhaps I connect things others in Europe might not, leading to quirkier ideas.

    I have no idea. This is just what several friends have told me and my theory of why that might be the case. Personally I don't see my own writing and ideas as particularly unusual lol.
     
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  9. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    Every book you've read in the English language is just the same 26 letters rearranged a different way.

    I feel like that's a very...dramatic example of our current cultures influx of ideas.

    To answer your question - yes, I have. :D I tried my very first writing project of any length when I was really young. This is when most people still had flip phones and no one had computers except the ancient dinosaurs I wasn't allowed to touch. I wrote out my story and illustrated it, taking up an entire graphing notebook (the only thing I had that wasn't used. My mum wouldn't buy me another notebook).

    Of course, every single word except the most common ones (such as "the") were misspelled... but I loved it. :love:

    When I was about 13 or so, I found this notebook. I never actually finished the story, but I was overcome with sentimentality and I thought the story had some potential. So, I used the (brand new to me) Compaq laptop and rewrote the entire thing in a word document (I added to the story, of course). In the end it was like... 40 pages? I don't remember the word count - I didn't pay attention to the word count back then. Still never finished the novel, but that was huge for me.

    Then, about 3 years ago I was walking past the TV.... and Nikkita was on. Basically same premise as the book I came up with when I was a kid.

    Kid me was awesome, but also disappointed someone took my idea.
     
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  10. Masked Mole
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    Masked Mole Contributing Member

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    Everything I write is a completely original idea that no one could ever hope to discover.
     
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  11. carsun1000
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    carsun1000 Active Member

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    Lol... I wish I could say this. But then it depends on what you write about. I write crime stories and just about every form of the criminal mind has been exploited by writes before me.
     
  12. Masked Mole
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    Masked Mole Contributing Member

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    Yeah. I was just joking. I try to be as original as possible, but I know that I'm never breaking completely new ground.
     
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  13. Lancie
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    Lancie Contributing Member

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    I've been writing a lot with my fiance lately, the other day as I read his next piece he said 'I'm so glad you've never played warcraft'. Hmm...
     
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  14. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    As far as relationships go, you can only have so many kinds of relationships. But as far as story goes, I'm purposefully avoiding the current trends. There are no magical creatures or magic, no zombies or mythical creatures, no time travel, no war or revolution, and no predestined love, triggered at first sight.

    Other than that, the threads that run through it are probably not that original, but hopefully I'm telling the story in an original way.
     
  15. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Total originality was a huge deal to me when I was starting to write seriously back in the 80s. I eventually realized it was nearly impossible, and pointless as well. I was crushed when I saw the movie The NeverEnding Story because it involved a heroic young boy who saves the world but thought he'd failed. My WIP at the time also had a heroic boy who succeeded but thought he'd failed (in my story, he doesn't save the universe, just someone he cares about). I got over that. Then, years later, I read Cormac McCarthy's The Road, which involves a man and a boy traveling together through a post-apocalyptic wasteland. My story did, too, and I was a bit crushed again. But the characters in The Road are father and son, and in my story they're unrelated. Also, the themes in the stories couldn't be more different. The only resemblances are superficial.

    I abandoned the quest for total originality. I came to accept that there would be similarities between my work and the work of others - sometimes strong similarities. But if the themes are different - that is, my concerns and the meanings of my work are different - then that's original enough for me. Besides, if a story has any value at all, we need to tell it again and again, in new voices and new styles for new generations. Our stories are the lessons we use to learn to be human.
     
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  16. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    The first screenplay I wrote (on spec) was in 1980. It was a swords-n-sorcery kind of thing. Within days of finishing the first draft, Excalibur was released in theatres and I put it aside.

    Years later, I wrote a novel entitled Assassins. Part-way through the first draft, Stallone released Assassin. I never finished the novel even though the story line was quite different.

    And another time, I wrote a short screenplay entitled Beware the Muse. And yup. Before I found someone willing to make it, Albert Brooks released The Muse. Pissed me right off. The screenplay still sits waiting to be made even though no one even remembers the Brooks film.

    So, yeah. It's happened to me. Perhaps not the way you're thinking of, but it has.
     
  17. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    "There is nothing new under the sun," is such a ridiculous quote. I really wish we could stop using it. First off, we don't know everything that exists under the sun, even though it exists. You could not write a story about computers a thousand years ago. Also, what about all the things beyond the sun, or immaterial things like mathematics, or metaphysics. If there really was a limit in new ideas, when was the last idea taken?

    An average five year old has not exhausted all possible stories. He isn't yet smart enough nor has he experienced enough. Are you saying that the average adult is as smart as anyone will ever get and as experienced as anyone will ever get? What happens when someone finally gets a new experience, like say, actually being born on another planet, or becomes much more intelligent than anyone else before him? Can that person come up with something new?

    There is one benefit to the above challenged quote. If you're saying it, it probably does apply to you.
     
  18. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I hope to have a few beta readers before I get too deep into my novel(s) so that they can pull me up if it is too similar.

    However, the story telling can change things, obviously.

    I find these sorts of videos very interesting for the parallels they draw 3:30 video).

     
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  19. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    'Nothing new under the sun' reminds me of the famous patent office quote at the start of the 20th century. You know the one.
     
  20. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    That's because movie scripts tend to follow a formula... deliberately. Tent pole films can't afford the luxury of originality. It's the indie films that break new ground.
     
  21. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    And then there's this sort of video:



    The reason I post these videos is to show that despite being formulaic, clearly, the movie has the potential to suck you in, and absorb you into the story and the characters.

    If you can do that with your novel, people will be too caught up in the story to see similarities to other stories.

    HTH!
     
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  22. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm doing camp NaNo this month and the basic premise is more or less Red Dawn / Tomorrow When The War Began. Or it was until I rewatched Code Geass and decided that I liked the name Britannia and then I decided I like a few names and the whole numbers thing and I thought "screw it this is for fun" and I am just running with it. So much so I decided to out right borrow the whole camping thing from TWTWB.

    In my more serious projects I do like to think I am being more original. But sometimes I come across a scene or a theme or a kind of moment and find myself wondering how I can add it.

    Sometimes it's so bad that I am ripping off my own ideas. Seriously I am pretty sure all of my characters have the last name Blackwood and all my stories are about this amazing family through the centuries...
     
  23. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am doing exactly this, with full awareness of what I am doing. The very thing that got me interested in creative writing was an old idea that I wanted to develop in my own way, not for the purpose of adding uniqueness or originality to it, but simply for the purpose of making it work a certain way.

    That is what all of the best creative writing accomplishes, anyway. It makes effective use of ideas, regardless of how old those ideas are. When comparing two works of art, do a thought exercise: imagine that their order of creation is reversed. The second one was created first, and the first one was created second. You will know which one is truly better if you deem it superior regardless of whether it was created first or second.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2015
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  24. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I like thought experiments.

    Have you done this or have an example? Do you mind sharing?
     
  25. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    No, it's not original at all. Rookie joins a law enforcement organization. Rookie fights bad guys. Rookie's innocence crumbles.

    But I'm hoping the way the story is told makes it stand out. The best thing about clich├ęs is that you can use them to surprise the reader 'cause readers often have expectations based on things they've already seen.

    "Okay, I'm sooo sure this is gonna happen 'cause that's what they always do and this is clearly leading up to that... no wait. Oh, ok. Wait, what? Seriously? Ew."
     

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