1. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    Writing something only you can write

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rumwriter, Apr 1, 2013.

    I was listening to an interview with Neil Gaiman, and he said that what he finds to be the biggest set back for all new writers is that they try to write what's already been written. He said don't try to write LOTR, it's already been done, and been done better than you can do. And I think he nailed exactly my problem. I can't get away from trying to emulate what I like. And I know that it's good to draw inspiration, and that no idea is new, but all I can think is "I love how this was done in this book/movie/tv show, I have to do it the same way." And it's completely holding me back. With short stories I'm fine -- I have no problem pumping out my own ideas for short stories and making them my own. But with novels it's this complete block that I can't get past.

    So how do I get past it?

    Much love.
     
  2. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Ummm...that is the only thing that I have written.




    Well okay, once I wrote a Dirk Gently story but that was for a bet.
     
  3. ChrystinaTrulove-Reyes
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    ChrystinaTrulove-Reyes Member

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    I hate to say this, but the guy is wrong. Every writer emulates another writer. The trick is to put just enough of a twist on it to make it yours. Frankly most stories are based on three fairy tales, if you go right down to it. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Beauty and the Beast. Trust me, these stories have been worked to the bone, but they still come out and work to be best seller's.

    Take a story and plug in a few stereotypes, reverse them. Take characters and switch their roles. Take other characters and switch their personalities with characters from other books or movies. You can do anything with a story that you want. But don't be afraid of doing the same story, just make it different. You like LOTR, try throwing in a superhero, or jumping at it from the view of Saruman, or take the whole crew from there and throw them into today's world (minus the eye tower thing, that totally creeped me out). Who cares if its been done before, but make it yours. It is possible, here are just a couple examples:

    I forgot the name of the story, but one guy took the Oz series and turned it on the ear by telling the story from the witch's viewpoint, and that she was the subject of a bad life. It turned out to be a good read and was on the best-sellers list for a while.

    A movie came out last year based on a book called Beastly. They did the same old Beauty and the beast and threw the story into modern day New York.

    Beware of listening to one person and assume that they are correct. If you look around, I am sure you will see a bunch of stories with similar plot lines just told in different ways. Some make the list, others hover in the outside.

    If you are truly worried about coming up with something that is purely yours, look at mythology. Not the Greek stuff. Most of that has been done. Try for Celtic/Norse, Egyptian, Mayan. Take one of their stories, strip it to the plot, add some more twists, turns and threads, and then throw your own characters into it. (That is what I was told a long time ago when I worried about being "original". But to be honest, being unoriginal is not as bad as it sounds.) But most importantly, don't give up. No matter what anyone says, you are a writer.

    Cat
     
  4. ms627
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    ms627 Member

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    If you can find a short story character that you like, try to expand that character to the point of developing a plot from there. Take from other, already "done" novels or works if you need to, but blend it to make it your own.

    Hope that helped some!
     
  5. Markowen
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    Markowen New Member

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    I don't think it's so bad starting writing what's already been done. It won't be your masterpeace, and may be it won't never be published, but it'll be a very good exercise.
    May be I'm making a mistake, but I remember S. King said his second novel, The salem's lot, was strongly inspired by Dracula. If he had read Gaiman's interview could be he never wrote it.
    I'm saying that - in my opinion - trying to emulating someone is just a first step in the road to grow up. The important is don't getting stuck with the first.
     
  6. Suffering-is-Beauty
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    Suffering-is-Beauty Member

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    Your not going to come up with a new idea. their are no original ideas anymore as the basics all come from somewhere. I'm writing a trilogy right now where my utopian society is based on the concept of George Orwell's 1964, but the books are nothing alike beyond that concept.

    That said. don't be like Christopher Palin, douche who wrote Eragon, and have the only difference be a letter in the name with every concept and story plot stolen from lotr, star wars, and dragon riders. that's not good writing no matter how much meaningless detail you put in or how outrageously long your book is.

    Be original as much as you can, but don't reinvent the wheel.
     
  7. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Gaiman is right -- you absolutely need to write the stories that only you could write. You'll have your own voice. You'll create characters with personalities and nuances that uniquely yours'.

    The point above about Gregory Maguire (who wrote Wicked, and several other books based on characters in fairy tales and the Oz story) reinforces, rather than disproves this point. There is a difference between being inspired or influenced by an author or a story, and trying to copy them. Although Maguire took the characters from the Wizard of Oz, he interpreted them in an entirely unique way -- those books are some of the most clever and original out there.

    If you can do this with short stories, you are capable of inventing characters. It's possible you're really a short story writer. Not everyone who is good at writing short stories can write a novel. And not all novelists are capable of writing short stories. They are different, although related.

    There's a famous saying (although I can't remember the exact phrasing) that says something like that there are only a dozen stories to tell. Every story is just some variation on one of them. So of course, you're not going to come up with something that has absolutely no element in common with any story ever told before. But just as you are a unique person, you can make your characters unique. It's their experience with the plot that makes your story your story.
     
  8. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Gaiman is right. You need to write something only you can write, which means in your own voice. While ideas are the same, it's the voice, and how it's put together, that's different.

    On a side note, he write the script for Dr. Who's Episode 'The Doctor's Wife,' along with this season's episode 'The Last Cyberman.'
     
  9. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    I believe what Gaiman is saying is that you need to write YOUR way, not that you have to find a story that has never been written--that would be impossible, there are no new stories.
     
  10. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's why you shouldn't write something that's too similar with something you've only just read. Authors and writing styles will inevitably influence the way you write, that's ok - but eventually you gotta ask yourself, "Ok, how would you like to write this?" And if you find yourself thinking of other people's work, stop it. Subconsciously you'll still end up borrowing ideas, and that's fine - just try and be more and more aware whenever it happens and root it out slowly. I think what Gaiman's warning against is the desire to copy, rather than be inspired. Those are quite different things.
     
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  11. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, please tell me this was about a compassionate hit man. With a name like Dirk Gently???
     
  12. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Also on a slight tangent, seems there is a general misunderstand with some, of an authors style and the techniques they might use. Style is how an artist assembles and organizes the tools and materials--techniques and researched info--into a coherent and recognizable product of expression. You can use any technique you can gleam from any writer without any need for copying their style.

    Everyone has their own voice. Learn the craft, let your voice sing.
     
  13. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Dirk Gently is a detective of Douglas Adam's creation.

    The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, is Adam's best work.
     
  14. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Now, about writing what only you can write. That's absolutely true. And, unless you hold slavishly to the stories of another author, then that is exactly what you do. In a classroom of a dozen novice writers, you can give them all the same assignment. Be explicit in the particulars of the story. And they will each write a totally different story. Even if writing in the same genre, each story will be unique to each writer. Even if you delineate the names of the characters and give the peculiarities of each, each writer will create a different and personal rendition of what those specifics translate to in his or her mind.

    I think Gaiman was merely warning against focusing on, say, LOTR as a target goal. You don't want to write what has already been written. You won't feel the same things the original author felt as he was writing it and, once finished, you likely won't be able to sell it. Any agent or publisher would just look at it and say, "looks like another LOTR knock off. Geez, I wish these writers would come up with something original!"

    You want to write a fantasy about elves and some magnificent quest? Fine. But make it unique. Don't cloud your story with Orcs and every other what's it that's already been imagined by someone else.

    Write YOUR story. Tokien already wrote his.
     
  15. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    [Like Button]
    *click!*


    (also, going to have to look into Mr. Gently. Never heard of him but always up for a good read!)
     
  16. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Dirk Gently.jpg


    tumblr_m42lwlBNjE1qlixxho1_400.jpg
     
  17. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    thanks.
     

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