Originality? What’s That Mean?
It’s been said that no idea is original anymore. The romantic idealist in me wants to stand up and say “no sir! I shall find it!” The sometimes negative realist in me is sitting next to the idealist saying, “really, dumb butt? You’re in for a world of heartbreak with that attitude.”
If I’m being honest with myself, then duh there aren’t any more original ideas and really haven’t been for thousands of years. As soon as the human experience began in the primordial ooze of whichever creation you believe in, stories very quickly followed. Whether told orally, written down, or visually the same basic ideas and characters have been around for quite some time.
This post was supposed to be about how I find inspiration. It very quickly turned into something else which I find more appealing to talk about right now. How does one make an idea feel original and organic?
As I’ve said before the basics are already there. The flawed hero’s long journey to find the MacGuffin at the end of the line (e.g. Homer’s The Odyssey, Tolkien’s The LotR, and Lucas’ Star Wars just to name a few). The star-crossed lovers with the world against them (e.g. Tristan & Isolde, Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, and let’s throw in Cameron’s Titanic or Avatar for good measure). Yes, there are more foundational ideas and better examples out there, but I’m trying to watch my word count.
So what distinguishes your non-original idea from the next non-original idea?
Unless you got down to brass tacks would you ever put The Odyssey and Star Wars in the same category? Would you ever put Titanic and Avatar in the same category? Not necessarily. What distinguishes these stories and disguises them as original are the circumstances surrounding them. Odysseus is a Greek king gone from his home for 10 years, facing enormous obstacles (gods, monsters, etc) to return home; Luke Skywalker is a prince of “The Force” journeying through space facing enormous obstacles (evil daddy, intergalactic rebellion, cuddly teddy bears, etc). They’re different except for the flawed hero journeying through pain and strife to reach the magical whatever at the end of the rainbow that will somehow fix everything.
Titanic versus Avatar? Sinking ship on 1912 Earth filled with humans; phosphorescent moon filled with blue aliens and the occasional human posing as said alien. Completely different! Except for the whole point which is an epic romance between star-crossed lovers. And they’re both made by James Cameron.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had fears that I’m writing unoriginal drivel and no one is going to like it. But then I look at what I’ve just written and think, “damn, I’ve never seen this setting before” or “that line hasn’t been said like that yet” or “no one’s ever described it quite like this”. No one in this world has exactly the same thoughts or same way of thinking. Even twins can’t have the same thought at the same time every second of every day. So by that standard everything is original to some degree. Unless you plagiarize, which is bad. Don’t do it.
Try to keep your negative thoughts at bay. Try to keep the outside negativity at bay. A lot of people panned Avatar for its tree-hugging, R&J, Pocahantas cliches. You still saw it, though, didn’t you?! A lot of people panned Harry Potter and Twilight (yes, I’m putting those in the same sentence, God forgive me!), but you still read them, didn’t you?! None of these examples, plus millions more, are original in the slightest, except for everything that makes them one of a kind.