An Original Idea

Editors and agents – and yes, even writers – frequently encourage beginning writers to be original. You’ve got to distinguish yourself from the crowd of other writers who are also writing paranormal vampire suspense. Why should we read your book and not someone else’s? What makes yours so special? What a paralyzing question this can be. Sometimes we are lucky and an idea arrives wearing its originality like a new coat. Even though this conspicuously original idea begins as skeletal as all new ideas, the first details about it we recognize are its most original features. How thrilling! Filled with the vim of our own genius, we set to the page ready to make history.

More often, however, ideas do not arrive looking so brilliantly new. Instead, these ideas appear in the distance looking incredibly familiar. There is the alcoholic detective, the rakish pirate, the pure innocent ready to take up a magic sword and defeat evil. Haven’t we seen this before? Why then are we drawn to these creaky clichés? Why are we so unoriginal?

We aren’t, of course, it’s just this other kind of idea hasn’t yet bathed in that single, critical ingredient that can transform any trope into something brand new: us. Let the rakish pirate stew in your unique waters for a bit and he will change. He has to. Just as a conversation must change when you join it, so will your characters when you begin listening to them.

The tricky part, as always, is trust. You won’t know how the pirate will change until he changes. Nor will you get to choose how he changes so much as observe that he has changed. Many a book will not get written because it does not look original from the distance that is inception. Every member of a crowd looks more or less identical from the top of an office tower. So easy to forget that every head you’re looking down upon is filled with as much originality as yours.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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