1. Keith Trimm
    Offline

    Keith Trimm Banned

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2012
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Fairbury Ne.

    Originality vs Copying someone else's idea's

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Keith Trimm, Dec 23, 2012.

    One of my biggest problems is trying to stay original. I was writing a "Vampire" story which in itself isn't very original but when I told a friend about a side plot line I had come up with, the first thing she said was, "Do you mean like in so and so?" and I said, "Don't tell me anything!" I did not want to be accused of ripping off someone else's ideas and using them for myself.

    I know in the world of story telling there are only a few true plot lines out there so making your story unique and read worthy is hard. My friend who is a theater major told me that the only real story is the story of the journey. Sounds over simplified, but it makes sense.

    So how to stay creative and not be so out of the box that everyone ignores my work? I suppose a story about talking telephone poles would be interesting for a chapter or two, but since you don't see many movies about talking telephone poles the story might not garner an audience. If I keep writing vampire stories then I am riding a wave of popularity in order to get my art out to the public.

    I actually think vampires are over done and only used a few concepts in the book so I could use the word vampire in the title. Probably false advertising, but what can I do?

    Breaking into the writing world seems about as hard as breaking into the pop music world. If you don't go with the flow and the fad, you will be left behind, but if you do go with the flow and the fad you are accused of having no imagination and no originality.

    Help.
     
  2. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    This topic comes up a lot.

    Every story has been done, if you look at it in terms of an overall sequence of events and theme. An obsession with "originality" will only drive you to gibbering madness, and you will never write anything.

    Originality is in the details.
     
  3. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Don't worry about "going with the flow and the fad." Write the story that is in you -- the one that you want to tell.
     
  4. E. C. Scrubb
    Offline

    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2012
    Messages:
    413
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Southwest US
    I doubt there's a subject or a trope that you could think of that hasn't been done before. What has never been done however, is:

    1. Your characters.
    2. Your writing.
    3. Your voice in your writing.
    4. The way you put your characters through the conflict.

    Let's take a look at some of the more popular books:


    • 50 Shades of Grey = Fanfiction of Twilight rewritten and edited to be more original.
    • Twilight series = Book 1, a rewrite/inspired by Pride and Prejudice, Book 2 same with Romeo and Juliet, Book 3 Wuthering Heights, Book 4 The Merchant of Venice/A Midsummers Night Dream; not to mention elements of Genesis 15ff.
    • Harry Potter = a number of places: The Illiad, Bible, Aeschylus, Canterbury Tales, Macbeth, Jane Austen (Emma - the twisted endings), Chronicles of Narnia, etc. etc. There's a whole lot of them here.
    • Lord of the Rings = A number of them: Sauron/ Gilles de Retz in The Black Douglas, tones of Germanic and Anglo-Saxon literature and mythology, and also King Arthur legends. Don't forget the Ring of Gyges in Plato's Republic.

    Just the ones I picked now. You can go on forever doing this. Now think about each of these books/series and ask yourself if they sound like the books they were taken from. That's the key. The story is retold in such a way that it becomes fresh due to the voice and as Cognito says, the sequence of time and events or, as I believed you said, the journey. So don't worry about if it "sounds like" something else. Matter of fact, go and read it, then read a few others. Find out what the common tropes are, and then see if you can come up with a way to do what you originally wanted, but in a way that is fresh to the use of that trope.

    A person dies for someone and that death brings about safety for the person being protected. From Jesus to war stories, it's been seen a million times. However, when was the last time you saw a wicked magician bent on killing a child because of a prophecy, and the mother steps in and dies, unwittingly protecting the child through love, only to then have the child do the same thing, and then resurrect to bring about the death of the bad wizard after the bad wizard had resurrected - by the same blood of the child he tried to kill?

    That circles-within-circles twisting of a very common story line made Harry Potter a very unique story.
     
  5. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    With writing, if you go with the flow and the fad, your book will most likely be outdated before it hits the shelves. Write your story, in your way, with your characters.
     
  6. Tanner05
    Offline

    Tanner05 New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2011
    Messages:
    12
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    OK
    I am also writing a book where the main people could be referred to as Vampires. However, the story isn't about them being "vampires" it is about who they are as people.
    I'm sure your story is the same way. If your story concentrates on who the characters are instead of what they are it is going to be original, because it will be yours.

    However, don't jam the vampire thing in just to sell a book. It seem like it will get in the way of the honesty of the story if you don't feel like your people are actually vampires.
     
  7. Keith Trimm
    Offline

    Keith Trimm Banned

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2012
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Fairbury Ne.
    Awesome replies...

    I had a review of my book where a critic accused me of not following the "vampire" code and sticking to all the rules. The cover of my book shows a vampire smiling in a mirror for gosh darn sake. Think I care? He gave me a bad review because I didn't stick to the code and now I think my audience may be too trained to look for certain things that can be changed or made different.

    I'm not rewriting "Dracula" so if he didn't like it, he can get a refund. The book is a free download.
     
  8. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    yes!
     
  9. Hwaigon
    Offline

    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2012
    Messages:
    628
    Likes Received:
    139
    Location:
    Second to the right, and straight on till morning.
    I guess truly original story is impossible to write. I gave up on being original long ago - I mean I gave up on creating an original story.
    There's been so much written that one can't come up with something entirely new. If the story is good, entertaining, if the characters are
    flesh and bones and all that seems credible, that's one hell of a goal. Actually, there's a story that's been haunting me for quite a long time
    and it could be seen as a combination of three or four themes found in books or films. In spite of this, I take these as a mere inspiration and
    let the story take its own course. Sometimes you built up on clishes or stereotyped templates, but you can fancy them in your own style...
     
  10. Show
    Offline

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    30
    People definitely had experiences similar or event almost identical to mine before, but nobody has ever been ME before. Nobody else could write what I write cause they aren't me. Theirs would be different. Unless I am setting out to copy somebody, I feel my writing is plenty original.
     
  11. captain kate
    Offline

    captain kate Active Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Messages:
    876
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Cruising through space.
    "Going with the fad? Then everyone would be doing like the fashionista's and chasing everything instead of just writing. As Maia told me before: "How about just telling a story?"

    It might be surprising how it's received.
     
  12. Selbbin
    Online

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,204
    Likes Received:
    1,788
    Location:
    Australia
    Lol. Sorry, but that's funny considering the topic.
     
  13. Sam Edge
    Offline

    Sam Edge Member

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2012
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Northern British Columbia
    Most of my material comes from my experiences and the process of writing itself. I like to think that I operate off of "original thoughts and ideas" but it's hard to tell if I have picked something up over the years from another source and just don't realize it. As a result I am very leery of claiming something as "mine". In a post on my blog recently I referred to "spiritual atrophy" to describe a condition of not using aspects of the psyche and thereby loosing the ability to access those attributes... or something like that. I was pretty proud of myself as the term came up as part of the creative process as I was writing. I also got some really good feedback from the piece and the phrase. Still, I am hesitant to TM the term and take credit. Just because it came up "organically" in my process doesn't mean its mine - or does it? I'm sure someone had the same thought at some point. I guess for me its a matter of weather my own process is pure or not.
     
  14. Cursive
    Offline

    Cursive New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2012
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    1
    Picasso said good artists copy, great artists steal. The history of art and literature is crusted with the repetition of the same basic ideas. One of my favorite lectures in an aesthetics class was one in which we compared a few painting by different artists that had all painted Judith beheading Holofernes. They were all basically the same painting, same characters, same scene, same atmosphere, but everyone in the class liked each painting for different reasons.

    So write about vampires, or hobbits, or the fiscal cliff. I agree that the originality is in the details, also I hear that's where the devil is.
     
  15. thedarkknight
    Offline

    thedarkknight Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2012
    Messages:
    68
    Likes Received:
    3
    Nice points. I thought the first Harry Potter book was a parody of David Copperfield.
     
  16. Man in the Box
    Offline

    Man in the Box Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2011
    Messages:
    254
    Likes Received:
    41
    Location:
    Brazil
    Last week I saw a girl published a story similar to mine. I didn't give it much thought, because I believed my approach of the idea was better and a bit less formulaic.

    Seek all the relevant stuff on your genre, but don't immediately feel guilty if you find out you're copying something. It might not be a case of lack of originality, but instead following a trope.
     
  17. thewordsmith
    Offline

    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2009
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    124
    Location:
    State of Confusion
    NO! A truly original story is NOT impossible to write! May be all of the original IDEAS have been done before, yes. But that's because there are only so many ways for conflict to be presented. And conflict, as we all know, is the root of any story. Have you ever been involved in a writing class where everyone in the group is given the same story idea? Everyone takes that same germ of an idea and writes it their way. And every writer creates something uniquely different, though they are all, ostensibly, writing the same story. Writer's Digest does it every month and all you have to do is look at some of the stories produced to realize that, just because the idea has been done before, there is still plenty of room for originality!

    So don't think just because "all of the good ideas have been taken" there are no more good, original stories to be told. Your life experiences are completely different from everyone else's, even a sibling unless that sibling is an identical twin (and there is even room for debate on that). The way you have learned to see the world is the same thing that is going to let you see YOUR story. And that is what is going to make yours different from anyone else's. ORIGINAL.
     
  18. Talmay
    Offline

    Talmay Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2013
    Messages:
    94
    Likes Received:
    1
    The devil is in the details, not the plot; there are only so many possible scenarios to use, so it's the little things that matter. The story may have vampires, but tell us about your vampires. Even Twilight (for all its faults) had SOME originality. Yes, sparkling vampires are weird and go against the very mythos that spawned them, but it worked for the story it was telling. If the story is good or bad is up to the reader to decide for themselves. Just focus on writing and don't let every critic get you down!
     
  19. Carthonn
    Offline

    Carthonn Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2008
    Messages:
    407
    Likes Received:
    32
    It is definitely soul crushing finding out your so called "original idea" has been done before. However, the basics like conflict and theme have all been done before. Becoming obsessed with originality is an artificial speed bump created by those who fear criticism.

    When I think of original idea I think of something like a lightsaber.......but even that was done before.
     
  20. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    so, make it a 'lightwhip' or a 'lightpaddle' or 'lightdagger'! ;)
     
  21. spartan928
    Offline

    spartan928 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2012
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    PA
    Did you know that on September 13, 1916 the citizens of Erwin, Tennessee hung an elephant? It's true. Mary the elephant was part of a traveling circus and had killed her handler on September 12th. When the circus pulled into the next town the decision had been made to destroy the elephant and the only method the citizens and circus manager came up with was to hang it from a rail yard crane. The citizens of Erwin came out in droves to witness the event which quickly turned gruesome and horrifying.

    How incredible is that story? Who could even conjure such a tale, let alone discover it actually happened? Point being, elements of unique and original storytelling are literally boundless. Others have very eloquently pointed out that even when you have a story idea that seems "unoriginal" the writer will ultimately create something unique with the writer's own flair and perspective. Very true, and to add to this, there are dozens of ways to create unique settings, plot lines, characters and themes. The key I've found is to never edit anything when you are brainstorming and try a variety of approaches. Free write, mix (themes, characters, objects and settings), cluster, use personal and historical events, flip, rhyme, journal, exaggerate, transport, time travel, ask "what if?" and "why" constantly, google specific or random stuff, pull ideas out of song lyrics, mash different movie plots or characters together. When I get seriously jammed, I'll combine some of these methods to take me into all kinds of tangents. For example, time travel a character from a well known movie, mix personal experiences with some historical event, free write or cluster off a song title I like, whatever.
     
  22. Carthonn
    Offline

    Carthonn Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2008
    Messages:
    407
    Likes Received:
    32
    Indeed. I believe a precedent was "Laser Rod" or something similar.
     
  23. UberNoodle
    Offline

    UberNoodle Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2010
    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    0
    A book is coming out soon or it is already out about a drug which allows thought transference, and even down to the name of the drug, it was incredibly similar to a draft I was a third way through last year. I put it on hold back then because I couldn't see any further into the story, but when I read this book review, I felt frustrated. Should I have had gone on and at least finished my draft WITHOUT the knowledge of this book? My only solace was that the book is apparently not as good as it could have been, and the author's approach to the narrative and themes is not the same as mine. I realised that ideas are a dime a dozen, which is weird because I have no idea what a dime is really. But as already explained, the difference is in the nitty gritty of the story and the flavour introduced by each chef who stirs the pot. This is how ALL the great myths were created, and they are the basis for all our stories today.
     
  24. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    where do you live?... a 'dime' is a ten cent coin in the US...
     
  25. UberNoodle
    Offline

    UberNoodle Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2010
    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    0
    Ten cents! Ah, and a quarter is 25. I should of just thought about for a second. :p
     

Share This Page