Originality? How About A Unique Take Instead?

Today's post and tomorrow's are linked because they belong together! I'll be discussing originality today and the influences on our writing tomorrow. I feel it's really important to understand originality and how it applies to writing, because a lot of writers give up because they think they're not original and sound too much like other people.


I'm going to throw this right out there, because it's really helpful even if it seems pessimistic at first.

There's no such thing as a completely original story.


I feel understanding what this means can free you from a lot of worries.

And I promise it'll make sense. Let me break it down.

Say your characters are on an adventure to defeat a terrible evil. Awesome. Sounds like my cup of tea. Now, think of a book, film or videogame in which the characters are doing the same thing.

Any forbidden love in your story?

Cath Kidston and a chocolate biscuit?! I'm in love!

A mystery to solve?

Where does the door lead to?

A journey of self-discovery?

Just how much longer will my hair get? Loads, actually.  This photo is from summer 2009! HAH!

These are just some of the basic plots. Some theorists claim there's seven. Others say there's more, some think there's just one. The point is, yeah, there are basic plots and we all use them. That's where the whole “Nothing is completely original” thing comes from. BUT! What makes these basic plots different from each other is your unique take and your characters. No one but you can create your characters and bring your creativity, ideas and way with words to a basic plot.

If you've been worrying “oh my goodness, my story sounds so much like something else already published”, it's okay! We're all building on things that have happened before and creating something, if not wholly original, that's a new and exciting perspective.

Think of this as something that frees you creatively. My English teacher at school called it a palimpsest – the idea that something new builds on something old. You're free to write whatever you want, even if it does sound a little bit like that book you read as a kid or that film you really love. IT'S OKAY TO SOUND LIKE SOMETHING ELSE! Everything does, even the most successful books, television shows and films. What makes them stand out from the rest is their different approach.

We all have influences on the way we write. Tomorrow I'm going to talk about some of mine and why it's important to know what your influences are.

So, what do you think? Is complete originality impossible or is it something we should all strive for?


  1. I agree, completely original is not possible. You've just got to combine the story elements and write it well enough that people enjoy it. Think of Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and other popular series (Star Wars isn't a book series, but it still fits!)... it's all good vs. evil and there's a chosen one who is the key to the good guys prevailing, etc. But many people love all three! :) As long as you're not copying a plot point-for-point, go for it!

  2. I love this idea, that even if your story is similar to someone else's, that because you're YOU it's different. Awesome.

  3. Oh, also, I need to add that your hair blows my mind with pretty. :D

  4. Laura: I think those three are examples of the "Hero/Journey basic plot" - the idea that the main character has to overcome adversity and triumph. That's probably not the technical name though :P

    I was tempted to have all of my hair hacked off, but I'm still not quite ready yet...

    Gracie: It's a comforting thought, don't you think? :)


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