You Will Never Have A Fully Original Idea. And You Will Still Be Awesome.

Nov 9, 2012

It's Friday, which means Healthy Writers Club day. I ran 2 miles this week. Not great, but better than I have been! And I'm planning to do some P90X cardio today since it's raining, so I'm pretty happy with myself. Now, I've decided to only do full posts about HWC once/twice a month, instead of every Friday (depending on varying factors like my mood/the weather/how good I've been at exercising...), so now let's talk about creativity.

I watched a movie with the Hubby recently. It had wizards and witches. It had a troll. It had a magic-ified building. It had a boy named Harry Potter mixed up with these wizards and witches and trolls and cool places to live. This was not, alas, the first Harry Potter movie. It's a show from 1986 called Troll, and it was particularly ghastly for a 1980's film. (The Hubby loves subjecting me to his favorites from the 80's. Were there any good movies made in that decade? ANY? Oh, wait. Terminator...okay, the 80's get a win for that one.)

It would seem the two movies about a boy named Harry Potter have a lot in common. If you actually watch the movies, of course, they are NOTHING alike. And you want another book about a wizard in wizard school? How about Willy the Wizard?

The point? YOU WILL NEVER HAVE AN ORIGINAL IDEA. Even I had a recent panic when agent Sara Megibow recently tweeted about getting a lot of recent submissions dealing with memory-- one of which was mine. It's hard to be writing or have written a book with an idea that you find out has already been played with. But ideas are not what books are about-- they are about STORIES, and stories, as my own awesome agent says, "are bound up in how they are told."

And just this weekend, she tweeted something else: "great writing makes an old idea seem creative and new."

Say it with me, folks: I WILL NEVER HAVE AN ORIGINAL IDEA. I CAN STILL WRITE AWESOME BOOKS. Creativity isn't having a single brilliant idea. Creativity comes in what you do with that idea.

When you have that brilliant idea, how do you make sure you're being creative, and not rewriting what's already been written? Try this: think about the stories that idea could contain. Instead of going with the first story concept that comes to mind, make a list. Create a few stories from the same idea, and pick the one that speaks to you. Then, write it. The writing is where the story will truly become yours, and becoming yours is how it becomes original.

So, my friends, have you ever felt like someone "stole" your idea-- even if they wrote the book first? What was your reaction? How do you stay creative? And do you have a love/hate relationship with 80's movies like I do? 

20 comments:

Miranda Hardy said...

Yes. I've been there. I love when a new idea forms, but them when I hear others are writing something similar, it's a bit disappointing.

I've come up with a couple of cool ideas I though were unique lately, but I'm sure someone somewhere will tell me they've been done before. Lol

Donna Hosie said...

This is such a great post. I recently blogged because I thought up a brilliant premise, then asked what should I do because someone was bound to have already thought of it!

Universal advice, including agents, was go for it. Nathan Bransford has also spoken about this.

Suzanne Furness said...

You're right there are only so many ideas out there but the key to writing something successful is to put your own unique twist and voice on the subject. Simple then -if only!! Great post and well done with your excercise. This week I have managed a yoga class and a zumba class so for me that's quite good. Have a fun weekend :)

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Good point--it's more important to put your own stamp on it than worry if someone else has a novel with a similar idea.

In among the schlock from the 80s there are some really good movies. If you want thoughtful themes, try The Color Purple, Do the Right Thing or Gandhi. Driving Miss Daisy and The Trip to Bountiful are great character studies. Sixteen Candles is a funny take on adolescence. And who can forget The Princess Bride? Hope you find one you like next time.

Tanya Reimer said...

Great post!!! And so, off I go to retell a story in my own twisted way.

And great job getting healthy!!! You go girl.

Tonja said...

I used to be a software developer. The biggest difficulty in learning how to do that job is there are an infinite number of ways to do the same thing. And everyone writes their programs differently - some perform better than others depending on how they are written.

Writing fiction is the same way - there are limitless ways to tell the same story - the uniqueness comes in the way it's delivered.

I'm still not convinced it's not possible to come up with a unique idea. That's not logical to me.

Gwen Gardner said...

You're not the first person I heard this from, Shallee. And yes, there is a lot of saturation of similar ideas. You just have to think of ways to make your idea more original - and then write it well.

Melissa Hurst said...

That tweet by Sara made me panic, too, because one plot element in my WiP has to do with memory. But like you said, it's not the concept itself, it's the story that matters. :)

Peaches Ledwidge said...

I agree with your agent. It's all about how the story is told because our stories are all similar.

LisaAnn said...

I have definitely had this happen to me before. (This has happened to me with both the books I've written, actually!) Even though my actual stories were way different than the previously released ones, the realizations still hit me like a gut punch.

Great advice about not letting myself worry about this. The point is that no one can tell our stories quite the way we can, and this makes all the difference.

L said...

It's true; it's the twist in the tale that makes a story stand out from others or a topic dealt with using a different slant. We'd all be laughing if there was a foolproof recipe!

As far as HWC goes, I've done more aggressive gardening and rejoined my Pilates class. It has been said that an activity undertaken for 30 days becomes a habit, but I haven't managed it yet - apart from eating chocolate.

Jeff Hargett said...

How interesting. Even writing a post about writing original stories isn't original. ;-) I wrote a guest post to appear in a week or two that deals with this exact topic. I'm glad you and I agree.

Yolanda Renee said...

You're so right there is no one original idea, whether it's an invention, a story, or a movie script. But it's the way it's told, the circumstance, the excitement generated, the pictures painted - etc. Go for it, just cause it's been done doesn't mean it can't be done better. Look at 007 -- same story -- different setting, enemy, girl. But we are still entertained!
I'm posting less for THWC too, but am still going to post. This week I really thought I would make real headway. Not to be -- oh well, will keep trying!

Tammy Theriault said...

wish we could run together...i enjoy running. px90...ur tough girl!

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

Yes, I think that ideas come up again and again.

I saw that tweet by Hannah and it really made me think.

I'm quite fond of Killer Klowns from Outer Space AND if you enjoyed Troll you should see the completely unrelated Troll 2.

Tara Tyler said...

yes, our stories keep regurgitating, only the technology changes! my teleportation book has been compared to an old british book when i've told just the blurb...ah well!

we all keep reading!

Tara Tyler said...

and is that a new pic? you look very pretty!

Lynda R Young said...

The 80s was an awesome decade for B-grade movies. Absolute classics!!! ;)

I find your post extremely encouraging because so often I come up with this brilliant idea only to realise it's been done before...

Hart Johnson said...

Man, it's rough, isn't it? I tend to hair fairly original ideas, but STILL, last year when I was writing about my teen who had started seeing dead people TWO of the ABNA finalists involved... talking to dead people. Now THEIR ideas weren't road trips with a brother, but still... yeah... the ideas sort of circulate in the ethos and I think we get the scrapings.

Budd said...

you have to watch troll 2. Best worst movie ever.

 
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