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How To Be Original

imagesWhen I recently read Graeme Simsion’s novel ‘The Rosie Project’, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling of deja vu.  Not surprising really, considering one of my favourite movies in recent years is ‘Adam‘, the story of a young man with Asperger Syndrome and his efforts to connect with a young woman who moves into his building.  It’s a really touching love story, as is The Rosie Project, because we can all see a piece of ourselves in these characters as they fumble unsuccessfully on the road to true love and self-determination.  Anyway, my point is that, as I was reading Simsion’s novel, I realised that it’s practically impossible to have an original creative idea.  But should that put you off writing your next novel?

I believe that it is our job as writers to bring our unique viewpoint to these stories, regardless of whether the idea has already been explored.  Because nobody can truly write the same story in the way you’ve written it and that is your gift as a writer.  Imagine if ‘The Rosie Project’ had never been written because the author felt the story had already been done?  What a loss that would be to the hundreds of thousands of readers who have enjoyed Simsion’s wit and style of writing, not to mention his interesting characters.  And just to prove that there really is no such thing as an original idea, only the writer’s perspective which makes it ‘new’, I searched the internet for opinions on the subject and found a great article by Melissa Donovan on Writing Forward.  She states that “Originality isn’t a matter of coming up with something new, it’s a matter of using your imagination to take old concepts and put them together in new ways.”  The following is a little test to prove her theory:

A young orphan who is being raised by his aunt and uncle receives a mysterious message from a stranger, which leads him on a series of great adventures. Early on, he must receive training to learn skills that are seemingly superhuman. Along the way he befriends loyal helpers, specifically a guy and a gal who end up falling for each other. Our young hero is also helped by a number of non-human creatures. His adventures lead him to a dark and evil villain who is terrorizing everyone and everything that our hero knows and loves — the same villain who killed his parents.

If you guessed that this synopsis outlines Harry Potter, then you guessed right. But if you guessed that it was Star Wars, you’re also right.

We hear a lot about plagiarism (hello Shia Leboeuf!) but that’s not what I’m talking about here.  Most of us don’t set out to write novels that have already been written, but it’s almost impossible not to end up treading on the toes of stories that have already been told.  The challenge is to find your own unique voice as a writer and tell a story as only you can tell it.  That is what will make your work original.

The other reason why ‘Adam’ is one of my favourite movies?  The soundtrack – which introduced me to ‘The Weepies’.  Enjoy  🙂

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