Writing Is A Bad Habit: There Are Only So Many Stories a.k.a. How Original Can You Be?

You think you have the greatest, most original plot idea ever … until you wind up looking through your bookstore and see it.  There, right there, is a book that seems to be your exact same concept!  Someone beat you to the punch and so there goes a great idea!  Or does it?

They say there are only seven core plots in the world and that’s pretty much right.  No one has a problem with that.  It is even said there are only so many stories ever and that even makes a certain degree of sense.  When you have billions of people in history all being creative, there’s bound to be convergent thoughts that lead to similar plotlines and story ideas.  That doesn’t mean you should give up or simply throw away anything that seems similar to previously told stories.

The trick about writing is not always coming up with a unique idea (there are few, if any, of those left), it is how you tell the story itself.  No one tells a story in the same way and no two characters are totally identical.  You can take a plot that may be identical in its key points to another story, then change it all up by implanting different characters, different styles, and different dramatic beats.  New themes, new ideas, and your own unique perspective can radically alter a tale.

All the same, if you do find that you’re looking at a mirror image of a book on the shelves, it might not hurt to compare them.  The last thing you want is to wind up on that one-in-a-million chance that you running on such a convergent set of thoughts that it really seems like you *are* copying the other work!

In the end, you can take any plot and apply your own unique style and outlook to make it your own.  Until next time, good luck, good reading, and good writing!

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5 comments

  1. One of the nice things that a reader said about my first novel is that she “thought it was going to be a simple romance, but it turned out to be so much more.” I think I reinvented (in some cases, violated) nearly every classic romance trope, trait, and tableaux, in that one.

    1. Exactly my point! Just because a core story has been done doesn’t mean it can’t be renewed, reinterpreted, reconstructed, deconstructed or any more of a million ways of seeing it in a new light.

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