Friday, 28 January 2011

I Swear I didn't Copy You!

This post over on Sarah LaPolla's blog, Glass Cases, got me thinking. The post title?

You Are Not Original (and that's OK)

We all hope that the WIP is fresh. We want agents to sit up and think, "OMG! I've never seen this before." Except they won't.

Why? Because most plots have been done to a certain extent. Even Shakespeare got inspiration for Romeo & Juliet from The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke in 1562 (who was rumoured to have got that idea from someone else).

See, even the master drew from literature around him.

Before we all run and cry, I'm going to say I get it. I do. I'm like every other writer out there. I eat my cookies hoping my WIP is something agents haven't read a variation of before. But to do that I have to put a different spin on it. Make it mine. How?

It could be setting. It could be a plot twist. it doesn't matter as long as it's something that sets it apart.

My music teacher once told me that there are only a certain number of notes you can use. Sooner or later a composer will repeat the melody or phrase of another composition. The thing that makes them different is what they do with it after.

So the next time you get an idea about two teenagers from different sides of the tracks who fall in love, but the odds are against them, don't worry. Don't worry that Romeo & Juliet, Twilight or Wuthering Heights did it before you. Do it, but make it yours.

If it's good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for me.


Devin Bond said...

It's totally true. Everything has been done at least once SOMEWHERE. Just have to make it our own.

And heck yeah if it's good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for me. Can't go wrong with a theme that even the classics loved. At least, if you put a twist on it :P

Renae said...

Well said and so true!

I'm going to remember your parting line for future reference on the days I'm feeling not so awesome!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great advice!

But I'm POSITIVE no one has done my new idea before. :D

(okay, I'm pretty positive).

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

well said. Everyone just needs to remember to not panic. Keeping calm is the solution to most problems

Stephen Tremp said...

Some themes will never play out. They will always work. Just put a little twist to make yours different and run with it!

Kristin Rae said...

Great post, and funny you mention music notes, because before I got to that part I was already thinking "I run into this problem writing songs too..." :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Mine wasn't original - young rebel/older mentor - but I did everything I could to make it my own.

Talli Roland said...

So true! I read somewhere that there are only seven themes in existence! Everything is a variation on that.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

I love this post and all the insightful comments. It's comforting, in a way. All we need to do is make these classic, timeless themes and stories fresh and new again.

I'm thinking voice is the main factor in achieving that.

Happy Friday, Lindsay!

Lisa said...

Ugh. I just went a read Sarah's post and had a major panic attack!

I know my ideas aren't original, but it's tough to see them boiled down to those couple elements that define the genre. I know she's not saying don't write these, but it make me doubt whether or not my writing is "original enough" to catch someone's eye.


Janet Johnson said...

So true! Great post, and great reminder.

Laura Marcella said...

I recognize similar elements in everything I read. But it doesn't mean it's the same book, not at all! Each one of us is an original creation, so we certainly have the capability to make our unoriginal ideas burst with creativity!

WritingNut said...

Great advice.. this is very true... we just need to put our own twists and spins on it, and make it our own. There will always be something out there similar to yours, but that doesn't mean you should give up :)