Friday, January 14, 2011

Originality

Well come on in and get warm! PK welcomes you to her cozy little blog ....

Pull up a snuggie and a sofa, and let's chat awhile. Please help yourself to some coffee or cocoa ...


Alright, you all nice and cozy? Good! Let's talk originality ...

Okay, I'm a fantasy freak for sure. My true genre of passion is pure fantasy. It's what got me started writing stories in the first place. After my daughter was born and I decided I was going to write a story, I spent a year writing it out. It was a YA story about a wood sprite (or faerie) getting lost outside her woods and embarking on an adventure quest to get back home, all the while meeting different magical and non-magical creatures along the way.

This was before the Tinkerbell books and movies came out. I thought the idea was somewhat fresh and original. Then, while I was in the middle of writing, I saw it--the Tinkerbell book, the Quest for something ... and I felt sick. All my ideas of originality flushed down the toilet. But I kept writing because I had to finish it.

I finished writing the first in the series, then began the sequel. I queried a few agents, but got no interest. Little did I know at the time, that I didn't know jack about writing a query. Plus, my ms was in major need of trimming and polishing. I was a newbie writer ... I didn't know. I was convinced it was my lack of originality preventing any real interest. Darn Tinkerbell and her rabble of fairies! I used to like her too. lol

*inserts Tinkerbell in a noose here*

So I ventured off into other writing realms. I wrote a contemp romance, a political thriller, then got back to YA and have written two contemps since then, my most recent the NaNo project. Now I'm ready to get back to my roots ... back to writing fantasy, but with a new perspective ... But don't leave yet !!

I'm tying this into originality, I promise.

I know I gave you a lot of backstory there, but the reason is, for one, this ain't a novel (tho it may seem like it at this point) and for two, so you can see why I've come to my conclusions. Originality is not just about thinking up some brand new creature or world or plot--though those things are great! Originality is also about putting a fresh spin on an old idea.

Take Harry Potter for example. It's a perfect example of how an author can combine new ideas with old ones to craft a story. JK Rowling is not a genius. She's one clever duck, but no genius. She borrowed ideas and creatures to create her stories around. Of course, a lot of it IS original. But that's my point. As writers we can pick and choose and use both.

Take the dementors from HP -- they have an uncanny resemblance to the ring wraiths from Lord of the Rings.


 ringwraith or Nazgul
dementor

 Or how about Aragog the spider?? Very much like Shelob from LOTR. Of course, JK used many other fantastical creatures like unicorns, mermaids, goblins, etc. She borrowed names from constellations and Greek gods and philosophers. She thought up some really great characters and had a phenomonal setting. Everything else was classic good against evil and a fresh twist on fantasy fluff.

And I adored it just like the rest of the world. So what is originality? Does it mean we have to think up something completely original? Well, it won't hurt. But we can have free range using others' ideas as well. What makes this so awesome is that no other writer in the world will be able to put a spin on something the way we do. Now, I'm not saying go out and write your own story about an orphan boy wizard who goes to school in a super cool castle outside of London and put your own spin on it. Duh. But use the creatures and ideas that are already out there--just twist them around a little. Let the readers see them through YOUR eyes. Make it your own.

After all, that's what originality is-- the world through your vision. What could be more original than that??

Thoughts? What makes something fresh and original to you? How do you put a fresh spin on an old idea? You know that part of the query where we can put similar stories that have been successful? Do you do that?

23 comments:

Margo Benson said...

Good post! I'm a newbie writer and originality is a huge beast. Some advice I received from another writer was to give every character a secret. It may never be used in your story but, as the creator, you have some deep inside knowledge into their past in your arsenal. I added to that and have all my characters collect something and that proves to be both interesting and hilarious.

To me, things like this bring a unique quality to a seemingly ordinary or archtypical character.

Florence said...

I got up way too early this morning. Thrust out of my bed by a silly dream, not able to breathe because my crazy cousin has heat on in South Florida and well ...

They say there are only so many plots and everything is a variation on a theme. There are just so many ways we can struggle against adversity, solve murders, have people fall in love or a teenager experience a coming of age moment (with or without the bite of her Vampire boyfriend) ... so it falls to us as individual writers to make the variation of the theme sound engaging.

What if you had continued with the first series and it became popular because it was like Tinkerbell but more engaging? Not because it had never been done before (which is impossible actually) but because the way you did it had never been done before?

I intend to do romance, paranormal, mystery or romance suspense and all the variations of popular fiction with my own twist. True Grit in Brooklyn, baby :)

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Nice post! The way you approach originality makes it much less intimidating and you're right, we don't need to come up with something totally original, we need to put a fresh spin on something - lend our own stamp to a concept. Thanks!

The Blogger Formerly Known As said...

They say there are only seven original plots, don’t they? But, we all have unique points of view, which keep the stories forever fresh.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I was very surprised when I found a lot of things from the HP books had actually come from Greek mythology and some other myths. That's when I realized we don't have to make everything up. We can borrow and reuse. But you have to be careful what you borrow and reuse, as the recent lawsuits against JK Rowling prove. She didn't steal the ideas from the unsuccessful books as the individuals claimed, but it shows what could happen if you do adapt something from another book for your purpose.

Tracy said...

I think the biggest factor in what makes something truly original is the characters. Since the reader experiences everything through the characters eyes, even the most standard story with creatures and scenarios we've already heard become different because it's happening to someone who has their own reactions and emotions to what's happening.

Summer Ross said...

I was just reading in my book last night about the fresh take. Good post. I can't believe you would put Tinker bell in a noose...(gasps) Have a great day

E.J. Wesley said...

There are some folks who believe that imitating anything is creative poison, while others think that imitation is the key to innovation/creativity.

I fall on the side of the latter. I believe to create something, you have to first observe and absorb. Any writer who says their book or idea is 100% unique has never studied human psychology. We can't help but be influenced by everything that goes on around us. If you've read, seen, heard, or thought about something--even for the briefest of moments--it's in your brain and you're forming opinions and ideas based upon the stimuli you've collected. That is the very definition of influence.

I think uniquely interpreting things is the key to originality.

Pk Hrezo said...

All excellent points! Thanks for commenting!

Kindros said...

Creativity to me is about making me care. If I don't care about the characters or story or setting within the first few chapters, not even worth it.

I'm a big fan of Magic: the Gathering, so I'm attached to the story and characters before the books come out. The last 2 were horrible, I couldn't finish them because they made me not care about what was going on. Just a little reference. :)

Raquel Byrnes said...

I've heard agents say that originality is found partly in "voice" and that makes a lot of sense. I've read several stories in the same genre...but the character's voice, the way they see their world, is key. The wonderful thing about HP was that we the reader discovered the wizarding world WITH him...in all its new and glorious wonder. That was a major difference to me.
Edge of Your Seat Romance

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It's not if the idea is fresh - it's how it's presented that makes it original. Star Wars wasn't original - it was a western in space, but Lucas put a fresh spin on the story. That's all we can hope to do.

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Hi, cutie! With the world as old as it is and as many people as there've been since the beginning, can anything be new anymore? I wish we could create our own Renaissance for writing. I love trend-setting. Imagine being a trend-setting author? *Sigh*

I'm sorry to hear about your little fairy books. There are other little fairy adventure series out there. Tons. We have the Fairy School, some other with the cover looking as if my teengirl drew them cutesie fairies there...
There's hope for you, I believe!

(I too, have a series of fairy books I want to pump out. I've written my first, have the idea in the works, and the rest will unfold as I go.)

But for now, I'm focusing of full-length novels.

One thing that I've learned is that not to make things SO outlandish that no one can connect with the story. It won't sell. It's a fine line we authors must make.

Great post! I love to think.

Have a great weekend, thanks for dropping by my blog! *HUGS*

~Elizabeth :)

Colene Murphy said...

Awe wow! I'm sorry you had one of those moments. (I did too and it felt like crap. I didn't keep plugging along on that trilogy though...shame.) But you're right. Ideas come from everywhere and everything and no one has a completely fresh, came from no where idea anymore. Which isn't as bad as it might sound to some! Great post PK!

Melissa said...

This is an excellent post. It's so true. As writers we just have to mix original with old and mostly just try and take a fresh perspective to eveything.

Nas Dean said...

Hi,

Great advice but where to bring the originality from? But I'm learning a lot from the comments!

Thank you all!

Mary said...

Thanks for sharing! I agree that originality is often your own unique spin on something that's already out there. I am currently brushing up my WIP which is a reverse Sleeping Beauty-- the princess has to go on the quest to save the prince.

I would love to see your fairie stories-- the little bit of background you gave here intrigued me.

Good luck with your new project!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

You approached originality in a really great way and at a novel (no pun intended) angle. If I weren't at work, I'd say more, but I just had to applaud this post, Roland

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

Awesome discussion. For me, it's all about the spin you put on any concept, old or new, that makes it your own work of originality. When it happens, that spark of genius, you have to take it and run. The thing I've noticed about genius ideas is they lose energy when they sit in my mind. They need forward momentum to maintain their high energy, or they just lose their greatness.

Looking forward to reading more from you :))

Clarissa Draper said...

All the plots in the world have been done. And done again. And again. And again. I think you're right, we just have to work at making it our own voice. Our little gift to the world is writing what we see of it in our own words. No one else has seen the world like us.

CD

Donna Hole said...

You're spot on with the originality concept. If you ever do find that truly "original" idea, I will worship you for it - and then probably try to borrow it :)

Putting my own characters and spin on it, of course. I don't worry overmuch about posting my excerpts online because of the unique story another writer would put to it. My current WIP is a Sleeping Beauty story, with a sci-fi twist. Still a borrowed concept.

I'm sure you've figured out how to remove the noose from Tinkerbell's neck and write your own fantastic vision. Keep at it.

......dhole

T C Mckee said...

This post was amazing. My WIP uses a mystery in history (didn't mean for that to rhyme) and I take if from there. So much has been done that it's hard to come up with a totally new concept but we can certainly elaborate on something. I love fantasy too, it's pretty much all I write. Don't know why, I just love it. Have you read Wicked Lovely yet? You absolutely should...like right now. You'll thank me for it. Promise:)

Margo Kelly said...

You are so awesome! You've won an award on my blog!! YAY! It will be posted Monday morning. See you then!