When I was a novice writer, this is what I struggled with most: the idea that I had to come up with an original idea before I could write a good story, whether on my blog or at school, or anywhere.
I’m going to go ahead and say something a little controversial: I don’t think having an original idea matters. I think it’s way more important to come up with a unique idea. At first blush, these two words look mightily similar, but they’re different in one key aspect.
Originality, to me, means being the first of something. People originate Broadway roles, they have an original idea, they start an original business. The original of something is the very first iteration of it.
Uniqueness? It’s a whole different kettle of fish. To me, uniqueness is about being the only one of a kind. Unlike anything else. Interesting and different, even if not necessarily new.
And honestly, I think originality in stories is over-rated, so you shouldn’t let that stop you. For example, if you google ‘how to come up with an original idea,’ you’ll get a ton of results. This idea isn’t original. But it’s unique, because nobody can answer this question or tell this story through my perspective, which is valuable.
You shouldn’t feel bad for letting it stop you from writing. Honestly, I let it stop me for a long time. It seemed like every time I had a decent idea on what to write, and I wanted to start writing the story, coincidentally a huge blogger had not only beat me to it, but had their story promoted all over the internet, written with far more grace and poise than I ever could and having captured all the milestones I could only dream of. It’s disheartening.
But wild though it may seem, these authors don’t have what I do: my personal, lived experience which I can filter my stories through. I have something utterly unique, which is just my life.
Here’s how you write an original story.
Forget about originality first and foremost. Come to grips with the fact that your story idea has been done already, probably better than you could have. Focus instead on what you can do differently, how you can put this broad, universal, already-been-done idea through the filter of your unique experiences.
For instance, there must be thousands of stories writing about how to write good characters. However, I wrote one in which I talked about how my experiences with DnD improved my ability to create characters in my fiction novel. It was fun, wacky, and entertaining to write. It was a generic idea but it was in line with my interests, and I positioned it through the lens of my life. People loved it.
Now, stories about character development? Done to death. Stories about DnD? Also done to death. Stories about my exact experience using DnD to improve my writing?
One of a kind.
The topic is broad, so it appeals to a lot of people. The story is unique, individual, so people will enjoy it. The outcome is universally applicable, so all will find it useful.
That’s the best way to write a story.
You start broad, with an idea that is relevant to a large group of people, but that’s in line with your interests, no matter what those interests are. You write from your perspective, something you can offer that nobody else can — what is it about your life that gives you an insight on this idea? Have you tried it yourself? What did you learn? Finally, you write your key takeaways, something everyone can learn and enjoy no matter what part of life they come from.
Uniqueness? To me, that’s the most valuable thing a story can have.
Originally published at http://zuliewrites.com on July 11, 2019.
A new online magazine about the art, craft, and business of storytelling, STORIUS is a publication for everyone interested in how stories are created, discovered, distributed, and consumed.