1. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    It's all been done

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rumwriter, Apr 26, 2014.

    So, I know good and well that at this point, everything's been done. That the idea of a "new idea" should be stricken from your mind. But, I keep feeling that the more I add to my story, it unintentionally becomes so similar plot and character wise to other things I've read or seen.

    You start with a character, make them a kid, but then you decide they need a mentor, but then you want to kill the mentor off early on so that the kid can take the lead, and to make it more fun, you want to give him powers, but then you realize you need a strong female character, so you create a sharp-tongued rebellious girl, but because this kid has powers, he needs an even stronger villain with powers, and you need to make the struggle personal, so throw some sort of family history in there, and all of a sudden you've got Star Wars.

    That's not my story, but it was my example.

    I guess my question is not, "how do you avoid rehashing old ideas" so much as "how do you cope with rehashing old ideas." Because even if certain plots are similar (Firefly is about rebels vs the alliance -- Star Wars?), people don't ever say "Oh, all Joss Whedon did was copy Star Wars." But it's a fear I have. I know when The Hunger Games came out, a lot of people said she just copied Battle Royale. I hate the idea of people saying "Oh, that's just an updated version of so-and-so." Or "Oh, he just mixed yada-yada with so-and-so."

    If my protagonist is a small boy whose destiny it is to defeat the greatest evil in the world, I can't help but think "Yep. There's Harry Potter."

    Just looking for some writer therapy here.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    You.... try not to worry about it too much. If you focus on this paradigm overmuch, trust me, it only gets worse over time as you age and your accumulated data bank of things you've done/seen/heard/felt grows larger and larger and you start to make unbidden connections between this and that and the other thing and you start to wonder of life isn't just some bizarre fractal pattern, ever growing, ever diminutizing, always the same shape as the greater shape...

    It will make you seize up as a writer. Let it go, and I say that in my kindliest voice, truly. Let it go. :)
     
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  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust
     
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  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are a number of common tropes or conventions that are used in stories or tales, and have been over the decades and centuries...

    If your story falls roughly into one of these molds, it's not a terrible thing.

    You want to make the story your own...not rehash a world or carbon copy a main character (does anyone use carbon copy any more--okay I do, I guess).

    Readers often prefer a certain structure. In romance there are even formulas, and writers adhere to them, some publishers even require it, because it's what their readership desires. With fantasy or SF, it's a semi-familiar path, sort of like someone who likes to visit zoos. While there are similarities to every zoo, the sights and experience varies from one to the next.

    Will you likely win the Nobel Prize for Literature by writing along a commonly used path? Very unlikely. Will you find readers that enjoy your tale? Quite possible.
     
  5. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Let it go...let it go all writers in the wide, wide world...
    It doesn't matter if it's been done before....what matters is your interpretation of-

    <is banned for Frozen reference>

    In fact, let's use Frozen as an example. At the core, it's about a girl who was taught to fear her powers; a girl who sees herself as a monster, a freak, because she has special powers. Now what other famous media out there is about a person, or a group of people who are taught by society that they are freakish monsters for their powers and shunned? Oh, right, the Mutants from the X-Men comic books. Or Naruto as he's ostracized by his own village for containing the powers of the nine-tail demon fox. Or Rudolph himself for having that red nose of his. Yeah, we're gonna be here all day and night if I keep on with this.

    Every story has similar core structures. It's what you do to that structure that makes it unique. :D
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2014
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  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Is unbanned for making Wreybies laugh louder than is socially acceptable. ;):D
     
  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I have this urge to write out a Frozen parody now. :D :p Maybe I'll put it in my blog when I'm done?
     
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  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Please include the fact that she realizes at some point that ice has zero calories, thus no nutritional value. Seriously. I'm watching and thinking, "You go, gurl. You don't need no people telling you what's what with your little size zero, fly, magical self. Go make you a castle. Yes! That castle is Dolce & Gabbana with a nod to old school Yves Saint Laurent. Now a new dress! Bam! Vera Wang for days, gurl! Love it, love it, love it!

    ....... but what are you gonna' eat, Miss Thing? Ain't no food up on that mountain!"
     
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  9. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    There is literally an infinite number of combinations of possible events and directions to form a story. Some interesting, some not.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's all been done, yet every opus is brand new.

    The universe is full of seemingly contradictory dualities, but this one is easy. The broad strokes aren't new, but the originality is in the details, the finesse, the life you breathe into it.

    Why do you thinks stories like Romeo and Juliet continue to be written and still deliver fresh insights?
     
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  11. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Star Wars is a ripoff of The Hidden Fortress. But so what?
     
  12. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I earned millions, had tens of millions of fans, three movie deal with Hollywood and the rest that Suzanne Collins got from writing 'The Hunger Games" , I wouldn't be cut up about people making parallels between my work and someone else's. As long as you don't intentionally plagiarise, you should focus on the fun of writing.
     
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  13. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    With the possible exception of:

    " In order to keep her identity secret, Yuki poses as a mute."

    The princess in SW was mouthy.
     
  14. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    What's the phrase....? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. :)
     
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  15. Madman
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    Madman Active Member

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    I wonder if the universe will implode the day every story and every combination has been written? Or will the universe implode before that?
    Can every story even be written? Perhaps there is a limit to imagination.

    Every time I read your comments I get slightly depressed, not because they're bad, but because they're good. Their, mostly, elegantly strung together form, and flawless construction makes me realize how much I have left to learn. It makes me doubt my chances, being forced to compete with the likes of you!
    Now I'm going to be have to spend an hour reading English grammar and extending my vocabulary just to regain my confidence, thank you very much!
     
  16. Slade Lucas
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    Slade Lucas Member

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    Firstly, your mention of Firefly makes me very happy.

    Secondly, I've always believed that it is not about having a new idea necessarily - is there really anything original about a school for wizards, or a romance between a human and a vampire? It is not in the idea but in how you interpret it and how you put your own stamp on it.
     
  17. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    A romance between a wizard and a gay vampire?
     
  18. Slade Lucas
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    Slade Lucas Member

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    As much as it sounds original it has probably been done.
     
  19. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Probably, but really it only matters if it is so familiar that readers immediately snap their fingers and say, "That's the plot for XXXXX". If they don't, then you're golden.
     
  20. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm not concerned so much on what has been done before ( themes, tropes, genres ) - I'm more concerned about doing it different and not falling into cliches or familiar conflicts.

    Take a mermaid story - if the mc falls for a land boy you're one step closer to every mermaid story out there from The Little Mermaid to Mr. Peabody and The Mermaid to Splash to a half a dozen ya mermaid stories. If you decide to go that route you've lumped your story in with them and it's harder to get away from a familiar line up of conflicts ; the discovery that she's a mermaid, the reaction, the choice.

    For me it's not so much the idea of the story it's the lack of original conflict ( within the trope ), or different choices.
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2014
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  21. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Stories are like life, no-one's life (to a certain point) is unique in the fact that everything we do, has been done by someone else in the world, maybe not in exactly the same way, but it's been done. The way we follow recipes, the way every child catches a bus or walks or gets a lift to school, the way we all say stupid things and then regret them etc etc. So there's bound to be some stories that have elements of the same kind of thing that other stories have. There are two ways to give birth, natural and by C-section but that doesn't mean writers stop writing about women giving birth because it's already been done, instead we look to find a way of doing it that suits our characters and the story we are writing. So don't give yourself a hard time about it, let your story lead the way and see where it goes. There's nothing stopping you making changes at a later date before it goes to publication. Besides, maybe it's time for an improved up-to-date version of Star Wars/Firefly. Look at all the movie rehashes lately, Total Recall, Wrath of the Titans, Robocop to name but a few. Personally, I'm still waiting for someone to rehash Barbarella!
     
  22. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    So twist it around, make the MC a merman who falls for a land girl!
    Make it about a mermaid who falls for a merman from the wrong side of the Mariana Trench and is banished from the sea to a life on dry land until he proves himself.
    Or how about the mermaid and merman are the last of a dying breed following an apocalyptic event where the seas disappear ...

    It just takes a little 'out of the box' thinking.
     
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  23. Smoke Z
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    Smoke Z Active Member

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    Look up "TV tropes will ruin your life" and set a timer before browsing around. Basically it's a listing of all the common themes you find in stories, cross-referenced with stories that use those themes. There are even themes that grew out of not wanting to use the predictable theme, so became predictable. The language of that site calls them aversions, subversions, and "playing with."

    For Firefly, I tend to think that he took the pitch for Star Trek and actually followed it. For the Harry Potter reference, I was thinking of a story I once read where the main character is named Thornmallow or something.
     
  24. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    It's not about what, it's about how.

    As long as you approach the idea in a manor that isn't by the numbers, following the motions, it'll always be fresh
     
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  25. nhope
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    nhope Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Give 5 people each one piece of white paper and a #2 lead pencil and ask them to draw a tree. Take that drawing from them, give them each another piece of white paper with #2 lead pencil and a yellow highlighter, and ask them to draw a tree in summer. Take that drawing from them. Give them each a third piece of white paper with a #2 lead pencil, a yellow highlighter, and a piece of green chalk, and ask them to draw a tree in summer, with fruit.

    You will end up with 15 pictures of trees, each one different as though drawn by 15 different people. Each set of trees drawn by each will be different from the others. Point? It doesn't really matter, does it, what tree they drew, whether a palm on its own island or an evergreen in the forest, or a mango bearer or cherry?

    Draw your best tree. Harvest your own fruit. Make it unique and delicious and they will come for it.
     

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