If It Ain’t Broke…

Today I’d like to introduce to you my favorite guest poster of all time, the only guest poster who has done so twice, the amazing and hilarious Charley R!  She was the author of our 5000th comment here on the blog– that’s right, 5000 comments.  At about the same time, I reached 200 followers.  That’s got to be enough qualification to get out of a few blog awards, right?  Anyway, on to her brilliant guest post– I hope you enjoy it.

There’s an overwhelming pressure in the writing world to be original. If you write something according to the hype of the time – be it vampires, twisted fairytales, or sentient geraniums – you’re more than likely to be confronted, at some time or another, with the accusation that you’re just jumping on the bandwagon. While on one of my frequent book-hunts on Amazon, I am forever running into reviews that say a book is “unoriginal”, “clichéd”, or “is really similar to . . .”

Sometimes these statements are true – I once complained to a school librarian for stocking a book that was pretty much a carbon copy of Lord of the Rings, complete with near identical Fellowship, semi-vanquished Dark Lord and malignant MacGuffin. These books are books no one wants to read because they, quite honestly, are simply washed out versions of something else.

On the other hand, other books who receive this treatment really don’t deserve it. It’s not the author’s fault that their particular genre is proving at hit right now, nor is it their fault that someone they’ve never met happened to have a similar idea, and was faster in putting fingers to keyboard.

Besides, for most of us here, writing isn’t about the money – not yet, anyway. Hence why we shouldn’t spend all our time worrying over how “unique” our story is, or if people will think a certain idea is overused or clichéd or unrealistic.

As the colloquialism goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Unfortunately for us, most every idea in the world has, at some stage, been used in a book before us. We may not like the idea of doing something that’s been done before, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. What would happen if everyone stopped writing science fiction, because – forgive the pun – everyone has gone before us?

Bumbling wizards are still funny. Prophecies are still interesting. Dragons are still cool. Special powers and abilities are still exciting. The sarcastic character is still everyone’s favourite. Nazis are still universally hated. Romance is still important. The butler can still be a murderer.

Finally, isn’t the whole reason these genres are popular is because people enjoy stories like that. Even if we don’t admit it, the whole reason we write our particular genres is because we enjoy them. Not every story has to subvert much-loved tropes for the sake of originality.

Besides, if you’re really worried about something being over-used, just because it has been done before doesn’t mean it can’t still be made interesting by its particular use in your story. Your characters’ reactions, circumstances in the plot, even your presentation of the thing itself – it can all make a difference. You might not notice it, but it will. Every story is different, because if the author loves it, we see that coming through into the story. And there’s no way everybody in the world loves their stories in the same way.

It’s okay to write something just because you’re interested in it.

It’s okay to write something just because you like it.

It’s okay to write something just because it’s fun.

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4 Comments

  1. Nice post, Charley. You’ve got some great points in there. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Gorthalon

     /  October 12, 2012

    Lovely! That makes a lot of sense, I really appreciate your point of view. I have just realised I really like this way of thinking :D.

    Reply
  3. Excellent post, Charley! Way better than the post of the guy who usually writes this blog… just kidding, Liam. But seriously, you have a very good point. People shouldn’t feel like they can’t write dystopian fiction because people will say they’re copying The Hunger Games.

    Reply
  4. tomte

     /  October 13, 2012

    I have always wondered how you get, essentially a carbon copy of another infinitly more popular book. Wouldn’t the publishers realize it’s a copy of LotR or Harry Potter or whatever?

    Reply

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