Hey everybody, I hope you had a great week!
Today I want to talk about something that’s always on my mind whenever I’m writing: having a completely original idea.
Basically… It’s impossible.
At some point, any creative idea you might come up with most likely has already been done. It might have been by someone more well known, or someone who with a small group of followers, but chances are they already have done it. They may even have done it in a more creative, and overall better way than you (Sorry, that’s just the pessimist/ realist in me coming out 😂).
Does that mean that you should completely abandon your idea?
Now, you may be wondering, “Why should I continue with something that’s already been done? I can come up with an even better idea!”
I mean, if you can do that, then go ahead and do that. What I’m trying to tell you is to not simply abandon an idea because someone else has already done it.
I’m going to use an example from two well known authors; Kristin Hannah (Her most recent book The Nightingale might ring a bell), and Elin Hildrebrand (Her newest book Summer of ’69 comes out next week on June 18th).
*Before I continue, I want to mention that there may be spoilers for Night Road by Kristin Hannah and Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand. I’ll let you know at the end of this section when you can start reading again, if you don’t want to be spoiled*
SPOILERS START HERE
Both of these author’s have written a story about a group of friends, where there is a set of fraternal twins, towards the end of their high school years. When they are driving home from a big bonfire celebrating the end of the school year, the group of friends end up in a car accident. One of the twins dies (In both books, it’s the female twin), and the remainder of the book deals with the aftermath of this night and how it affects the surviving twin, the friend, and the twin’s mother (in both books, the mom’s are single mom’s).
SPOILERS END HERE
Sounds like practically the same book, right?
That’s what I thought when I first read the synopsis for Sumnmerland.
Although they have similar concepts, Hilderbrand and Hannah differentiate their books through the characters development and interaction with each other and the story, the way the story itself is written, and even the character perspectives in the story (Hilderbrand has “Nantucket”, the island this story is set, as a sort of omnipresent narrator during certain chapters). Another major difference is that the timeline in both books are hugely different; Summerland takes place during the year following the events from the summer, while Night Road jumps ahead many years in the future, when the friend group are now adults. Hannah and Hilderbrand also have different settings for their stories; Summerland takes place on Nantucket Island (her stories usually take place somewhere on the East Coast of the United States), while Hannah’s stories always take place in the Pacific Northwest. If I remember correctly as well, the friends in Summerland were finishing their junior year of high school, while the friends in Night Road were finishing their senior year.
Even though both stories have the same concept, Hilderbrand and Hannah still make their stories different enough where it doesn’t feel like you are reading the same exact story.
And that’s the key.
If you want to make an idea original, you don’t need the idea itself to be original, but the execution of it needs to breathe a bit of fresh air into it. In the case of writing, the author’s writing style, setting, character development and voice can all be tools used to make a not so original idea, into something interesting and new for the reader. Finding inspiration from another creative is not inherently a bad thing, but failing to make it your own is.
Another example I want to use is actually with my own writing.
A few years ago, I read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (if you haven’t read it yet, stop right now and go read it! Not because it will help in understanding this post, but because it is an amazing book, and you are missing out, my friend).
Anyways, the main character perspective that you are following in this story, is Death itself. Death follows the life of Liesel, a little girl living in Germany during World War Two, and Death acts as an outside narrator commenting on the actions of the characters involved in Liesel’s life, and humanity as a whole.
It was such an interesting perspective to me, that when I started writing my own story, I thought, “Why not use Death, as a character in my story, to help understand the world I’m trying to build?” .
Now, that may sound like the same thing, but while the entirety of The Book Thief follows Death’s perspective, my story uses a dual perspective, switching between Death and my other main character, Olivia. For me, I think this helps reader’s understand how the Afterlife works better in the story I’m creating, by viewing the Afterlife through the perspective of someone experiencing it themselves (Olivia) and the perspective of the being who actually runs it (Death). Even though Death is a character in both stories, the character itself serves different purposes in both cases.
Now that I gave you a couple examples, I want to say that I know it can create an inner conflict within someone when it comes to the “idea” of any creative project. Making sure it’s the best, that no one else has done it before, etc., but it shouldn’t get in the way of actually creating. Run with your idea, and see how far it takes you, because who knows, maybe it will take you to an even better idea. Don’t limit yourself when it comes to creating something, just because it’s not 100% original, since there are very few, if any, ideas that fall under that 100% originality category.
We all find inspiration and use elements of this inspiration in our creations, and there is nothing wrong with that, as it’s all a part of the creative process. Give credit where credit is due, and don’t be afraid to share who inspired you. Who knows, maybe your creation will help inspire someone else in the future.
Before I go, I want to share a tweet that I read recently, since I think it’s relevant to this whole ending spiel. And if not… well, I’m sure someone needs to hear it today:
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you guys next Tuesday for a new post!
Have a great weekend!
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