Please do me a favour and read the below blurb.
When it comes to revenge, love is a dangerous complication.With a fierce rivalry raging between two warring families, falling in love is the deadliest thing Sophie could do. An epic debut set outside modern-day Chicago.
When five brothers move into the abandoned mansion in her neighbourhood, Sophie Gracewell's life changes forever. Irresistibly drawn to bad boy Nicoli, Sophie finds herself falling into a criminal underworld governed by powerful families. As the boys' dark secrets begin to come to light, Sophie is confronted with stinging truths about her own family, too. She must choose between two warring dynasties - the one she was born into, and the one she is falling in love with. When she does, blood will spill and hearts will break.
That blurb is from a book called Vendetta. It caught my eye on Goodreads because I had a story (Well, strictly speaking it was a "fanfic") called Vendetta that I wrote years ago. Interestingly enough, it was also about warring families, but let's not stop there. Because the fanfic was based on a boyband of five brothers, the main family in the story had five brothers.
First I was staring my my screen like:
But then I thought about my old story, really thought. To be honest, it's not the most unique story in the world. I don't even regard it as an accomplishment; it's just the coincidence of the five brothers that threw me. However, it's not the first time I've read a synopsis and my jaw has slowly dropped. And then I remembered the writer's dilemma...
NOTHING IS ORIGINAL
Are there any original ideas left?
Apparently... no. So then, why do we write? Why do we struggle to discover, both in writing and reading, our perfect story?
There are only like, 10 stories in the world. Some say 8. Some say 20. The number isn't as important as the fact that the point is there are limited ideas. But are there? Accepting that is kind of dismissing all the times we've read a story and fallen in love with it. If it was unoriginal, it wouldn't have that effect on us.
So... we've been lied to?
Even though the base idea may be the same, what makes us FEEL like the story is fresh is the elements the author throws in to convinces us that we haven't read this Avenge-My-Father or Girl-Meets-Boy story a hundred times before. The exact recipe the authors uses, of character, setting, and plot determines whether or not they'll forge a story that'll stick in your mind.
Anybody can make a fruit cake. But it's the way my grandma makes her fruit cake that makes it unlike any I've ever tasted, and the memory of it outlasts the rich flavour in my mouth. Woah-hoa, I haven't even told you guys that story! Well anyway, that's for another time.
But it huuuurts.
I know, baby. There there. *pats shoulder.* In my very first post on this blog, I talked about ideas of mine that were strikingly similar to other ideas. At the time, I felt really down about it. But now I see those ideas were simply weak. Besides, that same idea has evolved WAY past that thing I thought it was like. It just needed time to mature.
So how do I make my idea original?
There's a book my eldest sister had called Structuring Your Novel - she said it was brilliant and that it really helped her. I did an exercise in it myself that got me to narrow down precisely what story I was telling. But before that, I would ask myself some brutal questions.
You need to figure out what genre it is, then find out if something similar is already out there. If you don't know because you don't know the genre, you should be reading it. You should be IMMERSING yourself in it. It's very insulting to the fans of that genre if you don't do your research. This is why so many fantasy fans despise writers who believe fantasy is 'easy' and write something we've all read before.
But say you do know the genre, and you can't think of anything similar to your work... well great! This is where a blog comes in handy. If you pose the question in your post after your synopsis, your fans and readers will tell you if it sounds like something else.
My first novel Karalan's Legacy is set into motion by Karalan coming back from the dead. Many stories feature resurrection, but few of them do so from the POV of the corpse. That's why I felt it was interesting enough to built a 200k+ story around (if you didn't get that joke, see my other post).
If the reader will expect it, how can you surprise them? How can you shake their beleifs down to the foundations? How can you make it a story that'll stick in their mind forever?
'What If' is a powerful tool for shaping your work. It gets us to move slightly away from our natural inhibition and write something that's a surprise both to us and the reader. The ending of the epic fantasy Tigana left me amazed, horrified and dismayed. I didn't like it because it didn't satisfy me or provide closure for some of the sub-plots - that's the danger of surprising the reader too much. But there is no denying that I will never forget that ending.
This is how most of my stories come into creation. Girl discovers magic. Cats can sense supernatural creatures. The world is about to end. Nothing special. But what if the girl discovered magic BECAUSE her cat sensed a supernatural creature BECAUSE the world's about to end?
Well, then you have my story The Cats and The Keys, for which you can find the Pinterest Board Here.
The great thing about this method is that the stories aren't always a perfect fit, which means I have to employ some logic and fiddle around with them until they fit seamlessly. What I end up with is always better than what I had before, and by that point it's so unusual and unique, the chances of anything being strikingly similar is unlikely.
Well... good luck!!
Fiction Friday is back!
After some thinking, I have decided to post a short series. It will be urban fantasy and if I do it right, about 15 short chapters. Rating is probably... at least 13+ (minor swearing). I'll post it on my blog (and possibly Wattpad) every Friday, beginning with this Friday.
But now I have a question for you. WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE IN THE STORY?
If you'd like to apply for this Cast Call, leave your character's name, age, talent or superpower, 2 physical traits, and 3 personality traits. I may not use all of it, but it'll help. This feels so weird! I haven't done one of these in ages. Still, it'll be fun! To apply, you can comment, use the form, or pm me on Twitter or Goodreads.
Ashana Lian .
Click for other Writer's Tools and Tips posts.
I also have an incredibly useful Writing Tips Pinterest board (ways of saying 'said' and somesuch).
Have you ever come across a book or any story in any media, that was unnervingly similar to something you created? Do you agree with the argument that there are "no new ideas left?" Just curious. =/