By: Julian Adorney
We’ve all read them. Stories with solid characters and a fast plot and vivid descriptions, but nothing to make them unique. Stories that we finish reading with the vague sense that we’ve read the exact same story a hundred times before.
The reason we feel this way is that the author didn’t put anything new into his writing. He cobbled together ideas from other writers, plugged them into a stock plot and put pen to paper. His stories lack any originality. And, because of that, they suck.
As a writer, and more importantly as a person, you have something unique to say. Somehow, in some way, your unique combination of experiences and genetics and choices gives you a unique perspective. You view the world a little differently than everyone else. Maybe you’re schizophrenic who manages to juggle two lives pretty easily. Maybe you fell in love with a crazy girl (or guy) for a couple years. Maybe you visited Peru for six months and had your future told by a shaman.
Or maybe it was something more ordinary. Maybe you went to see a psychic and couldn’t suppress the suspicion that he was the real thing. Maybe your parents were fascist control-freaks, or maybe they never gave you any rules.
My point is that all of us – every single person – is unique, with unique experiences and a unique perspective. This uniqueness gives rise to originality. It is your job as a writer to infuse this originality into your writing.
Philip K. Dick did this in A Scanner Darkly. He melded his schizophrenia and drug use and came up with a completely novel idea: what if you were schizophrenic, but one half of your personality manifested as a cop trying to bust your other half for drug sales. Terry Brooks did it in Sword of Shannara. He melded his experiences as a lawyer and a person to come up with the idea: what if the truth was so powerful that it could kill an immortal sorcerer (queue about 30 lawyers-vs-truth jokes). It’s what I’ve done with Deals. I’ve melded my regrets, my yearning for success, and my lost-love relationship with my best friend, to create something original and (hopefully) powerful.
If you can marshal your uniqueness and use it as a catalyst to spark originality, and then plug that originality into your writing, your writing will become exponentially better. I’m not saying that being original will automatically make you publishable, or make you the next J.K Rowling (whose books, by the way, sparkle with originality). But it will put you give you a much better shot.
You can do this. I’ve done it with Deals (available at http://www.untreedreads.com/?p=1708), and the results speak for themselves. It’s no Harry Potter, but the story’s a foot better than it would be if I hadn’t given it that spark of originality. And if I can do it, than you can too.
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