Thar be ideas, but where be originality?

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They’re everywhere aren’t they? Ideas, that is. In dreams. In T.V. shows and songs. In movies and in other books. In conversations and in the memories of your own escapades and experiences. Just one little thing can spark that creative side of your brain and voila! A new and glorious idea is born.

Well, it’s new to you, anyhow. Originality isn’t quite what it used to be. That can’t be helped though. We are like pirates, plundering the sea of other people’s creativity. Are all books written today plagiarized? Of course not, but you’d be hard pressed to find one that is completely original. I sat for a while thinking about it, and not one comes to mind. Not anything written recently anyhow.

As a big fan of YA, I find it’s mostly the themes that are repetitive: vampires, werewolves, fallen angels, faeries,  mousy girl grabs attention of popular boy, girl falls for boy only to find he’s hiding some big secret, etc. Sometimes I find myself reading something and I’m hit with that sense of deja vu. Didn’t I already read this? I go back and check my lists. Nope, it’s not on there. It’s just very similar to something else I did read. The trends will eventually die down and resurrect again sometime in the future (think about the last big bloodsucker craze when Interview with a Vampire hit the scene).

So if it’s next to impossible to be supremely original, why keep writing? I think it all has to do with the author’s style and voice. It’s about making realistic believable characters that people want to cheer on or see hit by a car. It’s about making it their own.  If  the author can throw in a twist that veers off the familiar path, it’s going to elevate their status with their audience.

Other things are always being improved upon: cars, cell phones, even bottle openers. So, why not trying to improve upon old story ideas? Don your peg leg and parrot and head out to that sea of ideas. Just make sure when you bring your booty to the surface, you take the time to shine it up and make it your own.

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4 responses »

  1. Hi Mary Beth,

    Just found your blog. I was drawn tio this post as I just wrote about this exact thing myself a few days ago! haha. I think you hit the nail on the head, though: an author's unique 'voice' is what sets them apart from the rest. I love this quote from Jim Jarmusch on the issue of stealing / drawing inspiration from others' work:

    “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to”.”

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