1. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is there such a thing as an 'Original Idea' and does it matter?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by TDFuhringer, Jan 30, 2012.

    While browsing the interwebs for sites on the craft of writing, I frequently encounter the idea that there's no such thing as an original idea, that's it's all been done before, that every kind of story that can be told, HAS been told.

    Do you agree?

    More importantly, does it matter?

    I heard a thought once that originality is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is presentation. An idea that needs to be heard by today's audience my have been told many times before, but that was in the past. What's needed is to re-tell that idea in a way that fits the current context, the current culture, the present situation.

    eg. Mankind has been drinking beer for millenia. You'd think brewers would give up on trying to make new beer recipies, they've all been done. But people want beer. They want it with new names and different labels and crazy stuff mixed in it like lemon or cinnamon (ugh). So we keep brewing...

    Thoughts?
     
  2. Berber
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    Berber Active Member

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    I say it doesn't matter. Clearly a work does not have to be original in order to generate an audience. In fact, I would be willing to argue that readers do not want complete originality - they want formula masked by originality; they want familiarity with a different twist. For example, any teleplay or screenwriter knows that film is a formulaic medium and that it is only successful in the marketplace as such - avant garde works do garner some praise, but you will never see them featured in a prime time spot because are so foreign and disconnected from convention.

    Originality does not matter - being able to tell the same story but in a new and interesting light is what matters. Formula sells.
     
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  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    It matters, if only because once we all accept it, people will stop posting, "What do you think of my idea?"
     
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  4. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Originality is so unoriginal. ;)

    But no, I don't think it really matters anymore. No story you can write won't draw comparisons to something else. If the story is good and not too verbatim a copy, it shouldn't matter if it resembles something else. None of us experience anything people haven't experienced before, so why should our stories be different?
     
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  5. jc.
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    jc. Contributing Member

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    When people read a book or watch a movie, they're paying for what that particular writer/director (or actors, scriptwriters, whatever) brought to the genre they love. If people love something and you make it your own, they will read it and probably enjoy it.

    For example, zombie movies and video games are so overdone and they're really all the same. But I love them so I play all the new zombie games that come out and watch all the movies.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Even Shakespeare recycled old plots. But it doesn't matter. Nearly all stories have been told before in some form or other, and the ones that haven't usually look like ideas by people who are just trying to be original for originality's sake - there's nothing there that resonates, emotionally or philosophically, with the audience.

    In a sense, the songs are already written, and we're all singers interpreting them in our own ways. And the world is waiting for our voices.
     
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  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Theoretically speaking, there are new ideas, and therefore they will arise periodically. In reality, if you wait for an original idea before you will start writing, you'll never write a damned thing.

    Theoretically, there is a finite possibility all the air molecules in a room will migrate to one corner. The probability is so low, however, you can and should ignore it. The probability of coming up with a new story idea is considerably better than that, but still so vanishingly small that you should absolutely assume it's impossible.
     
  8. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    In theory, every note for every song ever written has already been put together in exactly the same way before, and yet music never stops changing. Yes some of the main themes are the same, and yes sometimes they revisit a previous era's styles but its the differing compositions and juxtapositions of notes and instruments that varies the musical world so much.

    Stories are the same.

    Themes remain, but its the overall composition of the movement that makes a good story, whether some of its components are oringinal or not. Many stories can be 'likened' to one or another but no two authors are exactly alike.

    NOTE: This does not apply to cheap mass manufcatured formualic works of prose, a la some publishing houses I care not mention!
     
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  9. jc.
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    jc. Contributing Member

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    I don't believe in a completely original idea, but I do believe there are ways you can make something your own.
     
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  10. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    Every idea I come up with I tell someone and they say it's already been done. It's funny because half of what they're talking about, I've never read or seen. My newest idea my mom thinks is similar to Invastion of the Body Snatchers, but my idea is significantly different in many ways, and I am making it different enough that possibly it could be compared, but not the same at all. It's funny because I haven't seen or thought of that movie in at least 10 years.

    It's the same as inventing something. Many people can have great ideas. It's all in the implementation. That's why I believe it was not Singer who invented the sewing maching. Or was it Hoover with the vacuum cleaner? Or maybe both? Whoever really invented these things did not implement it correctly or in a way that others wanted to buy it, and so they lost out.

    In my opinion (this is a newer opinion because I've been asking myself the same question lately quite a bit) it doesn't matter what the story is, it's what you do with it. I can think of so many stories that tell the same tale but are so different. How many movies are there about kidnappings? However, I enjoyed Butterfly on a Wheel (or the U.S. version was Shattered) and also Ransom much better than other kidnapping stories. The theme was the same, but the details differed enough to make them feel different all around. I've personally decided it's a waste of time to try to find a totally new idea and a better use of time to improve on how something was told.
     
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  11. UrbanBanshee
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    UrbanBanshee Member

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    This. A great comparison. I like to think I have original ideas, but maybe that is because I am odd lol. I've looked for stories that similar to my own because I want to read the type of story I am working on, but I don't know if it is because I haven't found them or they are rare or if I accidentally stumbled on something new. There is a scary idea though. We praise the idea of being original, but how would we react to something completely different?

    Personally I think it is good to not get too wrapped up with "original" ideas, because there is the worry of falling into the gimmick trap where the only thing the story has going for it is the fact it new or original.
     
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  12. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    People have been enjoying beer ever since the millenia. True
    Brewers are being told by their new bosses to upgrade/change their beer to adapt to modern living.
    Lots of people I know that are pub goers hate the changes in the way beer has been temperd with.
    Lots of traditional very pubs in England have been bought up by higher up gangsters with money and turned into little mechanised commercial beer factories where allk sort of 'enhancers/chemicals/sweeteners have been added to them to attract bigger younger cutomers.
    Then they introduced the smoking ban in public places.
    All this has ruined the traditional great beer and spoilt the typical English pubs and turned them into lousy drunken insignificant places with people whose only main reason to go to these places is to get drunk and not appreaciate and enjoy a truly tasty traditional beer in a relaxed and bubbly atmosphere.
    Pubs are no longer what they used to be.
    Less is more.
    So it is not true people actually wants these changes it has been imposed on them without their prior knowledge or concern.
    These corrupt filthy rich are not interested in beer but money generating machine.
     
  13. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting response Cacian. I take from it the idea that we as writers should never forget our main purpose. It's not to cater to people or to make money. It's to tell stories.
     
  14. ClusterChuck
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    ClusterChuck Senior Member

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    I think there is originality out there. I think there are stories that have never been told.
     
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  15. Daydream
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    Daydream Contributing Member Contributor

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    Everything has been done in some form or matter. You just need to play around abit and think of ways to make things different or new. I mean look at Tolkien, he took fantasy to a new level, but all of his creatures and language has all been used before. Goblins, elves, dragons; all those things aren't new to us. Even the language he created in Lord of the Rings is made from other languages. I don't remember all of it, but apparently he was influenced by the Welsh and Finnish languages.
     
  16. quincarroll
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    quincarroll Member

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    Every person experiences life differently. With this in mind I would like to think that there are new and very different story ideas that can be written about.
    I don't mean that every single story that is to be told in the future is going to be totally unique and different, but that there are new experiences to be had and therefore, told about.

    Some ideas have been used to death. Robin Hood, to name just one has been killed over and over again, but will probably be done many more times. I don't mean the actual story, but the idea of someone stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

    It's not so much the idea that has to be different. There are only so many of those to go around. It's more the interpretation of the idea that gets turned into a story with a plot that makes it interesting or not.

    It's up to the writer to make the idea into something that other people can identify with.
     
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  17. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    To go back to your original question YES there is such a thing as an original idea.
    It is up to you to discover it as you make your way to the enjoyable world of writing.
    In fact in order to realise your potential and discover how great you have become is when you come up with original ideas.
    I see writing as a journey in a world of words, thoughts and imagination where in it and with it the writereventually makes discoveries of his own which should be like no other found before hence original.
    I have discovered many venture/new meanings and possibilitie as I started writing that I never knew I had.
    Original ideas could be anything from an idea/a plot/ a character/a new invented word/a metaphor that has never been written before.
    Original can also mean the writer's discovers new feelings/positive inspiring feelings that he has never felt before until he started writing, a new buzz/rush if you like.
    That is what I call original ideas.
    I hope this helped a bit.:p
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    pretty much everything has been done... it's up to you to find a new way to do the old and/or add new twists to it...
     
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