Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Writer's Club Wednesday: When to be Original

No one likes to see the same old same old, especially when it comes to entertainment. We're all searching for something new and exciting. And when we create stories, we want them to be fresh and original.

But on the other hand, you don't want to be so way out there that no one can connect with your story.

This really smart professor guy named Joseph Campbell studied myths and legends all over the world and discovered that a lot of great stories have pretty much the same plot. He wrote about it in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (click to read the Wikipedia article). Modern storytellers, like George Lucas paid attention, and have made a lot of money creating their own versions of this basic myth. It works because it taps into universal human experience. It feels right.

We'll talk about what exactly this most epic plot is in another lesson.

So if George Lucas used the same storytelling elements that have been used since cavemen swapped tales over the campfire, how come Star Wars seemed like something we'd never seen before?

It was all in the setting. And the light sabers. Yeah, those are cool.

The constant pattern of human life, of all life in fact, is that we are all born, we grow, we live, and then we die. The same story over and over. What makes each life unique is the time and place in which we are born, the people we associate with, the minor details of our life events.

So one way to make your story seem different from every other story, even if you choose to tell a story that's been told a million times, is to have that story play out in a new setting. A setting you invent, or one you research, or one you've lived in yourself.

It's not good to mess with basic plot structure, especially for the beginning writer. Learn as much as you can about the kinds of stories that work and master those forms before you try and get inventive. But you can always, always put your stories in settings that are fresh and original.

Most writers start out imitating their favorite kinds of stories, and then eventually move into their own. Don't worry too much about being original. There's no one else like you in the whole world, and if you write what's truly inside you, your story will be something wonderful that no one has ever seen before.

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