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Deinonychus
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30 Jul 2010, 7:13 am

In the context of writing, I have something of an obsession with trying to come up with original ideas. It is rather annoying, and I wish I wasn't so preoccupied with it.

I will think of an idea, get all excited about it, and start planning a story based on it. Eventually I'll take a step back and sort of look at the whole thing and think "crap, this is similar to (insert other popular fictional work.)"

Even if it only has a passing similarity to something else it still bothers me. I think because I don't want people to read something I've written and say "oh he got that idea from this other thing." And then consider my work just a rip off of something else without giving it a real chance.

Now I know being wholly original nowadays is quite difficult, and yet I can't help scrapping story ideas due to my need to have them be as original as possible.


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Prof_Pretorius
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30 Jul 2010, 7:47 am

I've felt the same way when I get an idea and start jotting down notes. But you can't let that stop you. Put a 'twist' on the idea, change it somehow, make it your own. Read a lot of original material. Find something that's off the beaten path and pursue it. I saw a book one day that was a scholarly explanation of how Freak Shows were psychologically designed (!) That led to more reading on the "Sideshow" and freaks and now I've written an outline for a story about a farmboy who joins up with a Freak Show back in 1930's USA. None of the characters are original, but I want to write about how these people lived, and how they dealt with being called freaks. The originality is that no one else has written about this part of circus life.


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30 Jul 2010, 7:51 am

imho everything will sound like something else to some degree - thats how you get your inspiration- i find the same thing when writing music, i hope people won't think my work is similar to XYZ because of a similar bass pattern or whatever.


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30 Jul 2010, 9:16 am

As a friend of mine put it, "There is no originality anymore because everything has been done prior to your being born. Everything is cliche now, so the only thing you can do is make your own variation on said cliche." Media hasn't changed much in over a millennia (meaning any stories and whatnot from Greek tragedies, Shakespearean plays, to the modern slaughterfest and sci-fi epic). About the only thing you can do is come up with your own "world," then decide what trials and tribulations will occur to the main character(s).



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30 Jul 2010, 9:24 am

The trend with art, lit, and music is that we tend to write within the context of the styles of the day. It's always been like that. Take music back in the 60's, for instance. Composers had been writing in direct reaction to tradition since before the 1920's. The shift in thought yielded folks like Arnold Schoenberg (12-tone), Pierre Schaeffer (musique concrete), and John Cage ("chance" music). The British had LONG been fascinated and influenced by the music of India. The Beatles arrived at a point at which they wanted "something more" in their music, and the music of India shows up as a guiding force in much of Harrison's contributions through the middle period (Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, White album, Yellow Submarine). Other bands copied this in various ways, but what you have to understand is that trippy-sounding (to western ears) eastern influence stems from a tradition that goes back hundreds if not thousands of years!! ! "Revolution #9" is a poorly-done sound collage compared with Schaeffer, his disciples, and Cage. Yet "Revolution #9" succeeded in bringing to the mainstream an art form, that is, tape music, that had been in development for roughly 20 years by that point!! ! The only thing new and exciting about tape music is that, same as any new musical instrument, works within the concrete idiom couldn't be composed and performed prior to the invention of the reel-to-reel recorder. So the art form was "invented" for the medium. By the time John Lennon started playing with tape, the art form itself had already been well-established.

My composition professor, in fact, insisted on his beginning undergraduates to work out their first compositions on quarter-inch reels in order to learn the basics of electronic composition. The visual controls of digital systems strikingly resemble that of analog systems, and working strictly in the analog domain is a wonderful way to break out of the box of MIDI sequencing and the fine editing that results in standard-sounding material. Grasp the aesthetic FIRST, THEN work in a more up-to-date domain to achieve the results you want.

In writing your stories, don't try to force the apple to fall far from the tree. Write what you KNOW. Stay in your comfort zone. If something fascinates you, study it THOROUGHLY and include it with your material. It seems audiences today enjoy learning new things, so if something fascinates you but is relatively obscure to the general public, make your story a description of that thing--whether it is a scientific theory, an ancient myth, a time period, the city block where you live/work, whatever--and write your story AROUND that thing. Postmodern writers tend to write little vignettes into their stories, like Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. Some of the themes surrounding Rose predate Dan Brown by DECADES. I don't agree with Dan Brown, but Da Vinci Code shows Dan's THOROUGH familiarity with some alternative views of Jesus' life, the Gnostic gospels, and present-day suspicions of old fraternities and secret societies. Brown and Eco both are adept at informing their audience as well as telling a good story.

My mentor gave me this advice about composing music for instruments: Composing for an instrument should mean having a love affair with that instrument. Well, I got in my head that I should compose for a little-used resource at my church: the handbells. The problem is we have no active handbell choir nor blocks of time to schedule rehearsals if we did. So my wife and I resolved to perform as a handbell duo using a 3-octave set. Well, I've never been a ringer before, and my wife rang with a bell choir ONCE. That means neither of us have ANY experience with solo ringing. Not only that, but my composition experience has been with orchestra instruments and piano, so understanding the bell idiom is completely foreign to me. (Note: Classical guitar is the same way. Composing for guitar is a highly specialized endeavor that really only guitarists can do with any degree of success). So in writing arrangements for bell duo, I've had to learn an almost completely different musical language.

What do I do? One of the FIRST things I did was seek out an expert in solo ringing: Christine Anderson, who is famous the world over for her ability. She pointed me in the direction of some other resources that I'd find, as a composer, quite useful. I bought two of her collections of arrangements, each of varying difficulty, a video of one of her performances, and another book by an expert in bell choir (for basic technique). After seeing what was possible and reading actual solo bell literature, I began writing my first arrangement to fit the idiom yet in such a way that a beginner could handle it with a little practice. I've also written out a piano part for another of our church musicians to accompany us, and I'm even working on recording the orchestration to a track we can use in addition to the piano as accompaniment. Before I wrote the first note, I sampled the bells so I'd immediately know what my arrangement would sound like in performance. In rehearsal, we often fall back on the recording I made so we can get an idea of what it's SUPPOSED to sound like. All of this is part of my "love affair" with handbells.

What I suggest to you is gather information and prepare to inform your audience of things which are factual. Have a "love affair" with your material. THEN weave your story around what you know. Don't be afraid of lack of originality--in my case, there's probably nothing LESS original than handbell music! My experience with handbells is that I know there aren't any works for 3-octave handbell duo that include synthesized orchestrations, so due to my experience as an electronic composer I have a unique angle, a unique perspective on writing for the instrument. In your story-telling, what do YOU know that no one else knows? THAT is your angle.

Something else I do when I can't come up with original material is I copy the works of others. I don't mean copy it and pass it off as my own--I just mean if I'm uninspired, I'll youtube someone else's work, download lead sheets if they're available, and learn songs by ear. From there, I'll try as best I can to copy the exact arrangement that I hear. I keep these as reference material in my own private collection. I can ALWAYS turn around, listen to what I have, and start thinking of ways I can change SOMETHING about that song in such a way that it's no longer the song it originally was, but rather my own creation. This isn't stealing music--you can't put a copyright on a form, nor can you copyright a chord progression. And certain chord progressions are so ubiquitous (like 12-bar blues and various turn-arounds) that you can string 3 or more songs together and not really tell the difference from one to the other. As an example, "Sweet Home Alabama" (Skynyrd) and "Sweet Child o' Mine" (G'n'R) follow the same progression through most of the song ("Sweet Child," until it changes mid-song). The MAIN difference between the two is the harmonic progression in "Sweet Child" is MUCH slower than "Sweet Home." That's IT. Despite that fact, if you listen to both songs, they come across as being COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. So it IS possible to take something that's done to death, using tried-and-true formulas, and come up with something that is brand new and seems to bear little resemblance to its source material (it's highly unlikely that GnR ripped off Skynyrd, but the 5-4-1 progression is hardly anything new in the world of rock music, even in the 80's).

So if you're stuck for material, try directly copying someone else's work just for your own personal use. Try taking the first sentence of a book and ignore the rest and use that to begin writing your own story (you'll have to change it if your thinking about publishing something, but it's just a starting point). If someone follows a particular writing formula that you find catchy, copy the form, form meaning something like this: Cowboy meets widow; cowboy and widow fall in love; widow can't pay rent on farmland; bad guy comes to collect rent; bad guy ties up widow, throws her on train tracks; cowboy rescues widow at the last minute; shoot-out with bad guy; widow gets farm, rides off with cowboy into sunset. There are any number of twists and turns in these forms, many even ending tragically. My favorite revisionist western film is "High Plains Drifter" (Clint Eastwood), which takes the angle that EVERYONE in that town possessed an evil, black heart and played a role in the fate of the protagonist, a story-within-a-story that you gradually piece together through flashbacks of the memories of the individual townspeople.

Even the Bible states (in a different context) that there is "nothing new under the sun." OK, if that was true thousands of years ago, how much MORE true it is now! Don't get hung up on lack of originality. Just write.



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30 Jul 2010, 11:14 am

PlatedDrake wrote:
As a friend of mine put it, "There is no originality anymore because everything has been done prior to your being born. Everything is cliche now, so the only thing you can do is make your own variation on said cliche." Media hasn't changed much in over a millennia (meaning any stories and whatnot from Greek tragedies, Shakespearean plays, to the modern slaughterfest and sci-fi epic). About the only thing you can do is come up with your own "world," then decide what trials and tribulations will occur to the main character(s).


That is my opinion as well. I have created several worlds, whole solar systems in fact, but I always get bored with them and move on to another. I think I spend too much time creating my worlds actually, and by the time I'm done I don't feel like writing stories about it anymore.

AngelRho wrote:
In writing your stories, don't try to force the apple to fall far from the tree. Write what you KNOW. Stay in your comfort zone. If something fascinates you, study it THOROUGHLY and include it with your material. It seems audiences today enjoy learning new things, so if something fascinates you but is relatively obscure to the general public, make your story a description of that thing--whether it is a scientific theory, an ancient myth, a time period, the city block where you live/work, whatever--and write your story AROUND that thing.


I definitely do that. I have researched various topics extensively and used that knowledge to improve my story telling. As noted above I created my own solar system, with working physics and everything, and spent a great deal of time researching astronomy to be able to do so.

I've also created my own continent inspired by "Middle Earth" in LOTR, but only in that it is my own continent, otherwise it is nothing like LOTR. That existed on an alternate Earth, not in the solar system I created. I also find that amusing since Middle Earth was inspired by Midgard in Norse mythology.

AngelRho wrote:
What I suggest to you is gather information and prepare to inform your audience of things which are factual. Have a "love affair" with your material. THEN weave your story around what you know. Don't be afraid of lack of originality. In your story-telling, what do YOU know that no one else knows? THAT is your angle.


I definitely love the material I work with in my stories, but I often get bored in the development process and lose interest in writing about it for a while. I try to revisit it later, but often find myself retooling some of the previous development instead of leaving it alone and just writing the story.

AngelRho wrote:
So if you're stuck for material, try directly copying someone else's work just for your own personal use. Try taking the first sentence of a book and ignore the rest and use that to begin writing your own story (you'll have to change it if your thinking about publishing something, but it's just a starting point). If someone follows a particular writing formula that you find catchy, copy the form, form meaning something like this: Cowboy meets widow; cowboy and widow fall in love; widow can't pay rent on farmland; bad guy comes to collect rent; bad guy ties up widow, throws her on train tracks; cowboy rescues widow at the last minute; shoot-out with bad guy; widow gets farm, rides off with cowboy into sunset. There are any number of twists and turns in these forms, many even ending tragically.


My fiancee suggests this all the time as well, but it is hard for me to motivate myself most of the time. As for using a catchy writing formula. I will sometimes write out entire stories in Haiku form, I find it interesting to force myself into that structure, while still trying to tell a meaningful tale. When I say in Haiku form I mean I basically just have pages and pages of Haiku's that when put together form a full story.

AngelRho wrote:
Even the Bible states (in a different context) that there is "nothing new under the sun." OK, if that was true thousands of years ago, how much MORE true it is now! Don't get hung up on lack of originality. Just write.


That's true. I try to tell myself that, but I don't always listen to my own advice. I also have motivation problems as noted above.


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30 Jul 2010, 12:28 pm

If you'll look at the work of Joseph Campbell, there are literally only a small handful of stories to be told, when you break them down to their essential basic elements.

I strongly recommend his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces to anyone attempting to write fiction.

The trick is not in the tale, but the telling, and your voice is unique to you.



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30 Jul 2010, 1:29 pm

Willard wrote:
If you'll look at the work of Joseph Campbell, there are literally only a small handful of stories to be told, when you break them down to their essential basic elements.

I strongly recommend his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces to anyone attempting to write fiction.

The trick is not in the tale, but the telling, and your voice is unique to you.


I will definitely give it a read, thanks Willard. Looking over the reviews on Amazon I can already tell I'll like it.


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02 Aug 2010, 9:43 am

You are all right it's very hard to come up with new ideas nowadays isn't it?

However if you think about it lot's and lot's of very popaur stories have been copyed from other (sometimes popaur other times not so) stories so it's no probem copying others anyway JUST SO LONG AS IT'S GOOD!! !! !

Take The 'Hulk' comics by that Marvel have been putting out since the 1960's they must be the worlds bigget rip of 'The Strange Case of Dr Jeckle anf Mr Hyde' that has ever been put out, (in fact Stan Lee and Jack Kirby the certoers, though it's most likely that Mr Kirby did most of the first stories and that Mr Lee is talking out of his affable ass of the strip have admitted more less as much!)

As it happens I've also taken other stories and put my own twist on them in order to make them ordial (don't worry I don't spell on them badly like I do here) One case that I'll make of a story that I've done is a comic strip that mysef and a friend write and draw which I've entited 'Booster Jones' (I came up with the name before I joined WP by the way parts of this have apperd on WP on my blog as well) which is (how I've always seen it anyway) a kind of 'Negima! in space' also I've mixed in a lot of emants taken from 'Flash Gordon' and 'Star Wars' If you want to see a simplefied version of what I've done is as follows....

A young Male Hero (with specs) by the name of Stephen 'Booster' Jones goes to an strange place, (Venus in the place of Japan) he paired with a sexst sex mad worldly wise man named Dr Forkov where he becomes an autoaty figure (in this case the comading offacer of a Rocket Fighter Squdern in place of being a Thacher) The pilots are al teenage girls who fall in love with him. While he must do his job, as the counery Voyboria (which is on Venus) he's working for is at war with another couery (Xingo) lead by a workalic tyrant (named Xing 'the sinful')

He and the smitten Rocket Girls must do battle with there many foes (both from without and from within) while trying to keep there personal lives on track.

Now although I've come up with a plot that is somewhat like 'Negima!' (or for that matter 'Love Hina') I have made it an SF plot and given the charaters a few tweeks as well (in a way this is how I'd have done Negima! had I came up with it)

Here are a few of them.....

1. Unlike Negi Springfield who's sometimes a bit of a cowered, and will more likely seek a peceful means to end a dispute Booster jones while still very smart is also very brave and very rarely shows fear and will more often resort to Villones to stop his foes! However he is still very protectve of his Rocket Girls and will often undetake dangerus missions on there behalf.
Also he has a girlfriend who he plans to marry when he grows up.

2. The Lady Vespen is clearly 100% evil (and often in Booster bad books) unlike the Class Rep who's just plain spoiled.

3. Lukki is a far more 'goodie goodie' heroine than Asuona (who-kind of- has her counterpart in the charter of her sister Milli) That is due to the fact the 'Booster Jones' is in some ways alot tamer than 'Negima!' with regards to sex and vilonce although it's played more or less strayt.

4. Prince Logot athough he's very much like Takahata is based more on Prince Barin (from 'Flash Gordon') than anyone else!

5. While 'Negima!'is fantasy based (abet in a real world setting) 'Booster Jones' is set on many differnt Alien planets and is SF, abet of the 1930's chapter play kind, which is why our heroes always win at the end of each adventure/story arc. Also it's far clearer that our heroes are good guys as they (most of the time) act like teenagers of the 1960's and often (save Milli) talk posh.

This I'll remind you is only a simplfied version of what I have done, (there are many many more parlals that one can make with such stories) but I hope that I've made my ponit clear.

Goodbye Till Next Time



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03 Aug 2010, 6:14 pm

Try satire, beginning with yourself. :wink:


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03 Aug 2010, 9:01 pm

Variant wrote:
That is my opinion as well. I have created several worlds, whole solar systems in fact, but I always get bored with them and move on to another. I think I spend too much time creating my worlds actually, and by the time I'm done I don't feel like writing stories about it anymore.


wow, you sound like me. I also tend to create detailed worlds with their own sets of rules. However i am technical on only a basic level so any reader with half a brain doesn’t get fed up and the masses with no brains can follow along.

Remember, the most influential piece of political writing in the 20th century, 'nineteen eighty-four' was a book more about the world then the story. It doesn’t even have to be intelligent either, twilight is much more about the world then the characters. That dribble goes on and on with little point and still manages to sell.



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06 Aug 2010, 2:19 pm

Variant wrote:
In the context of writing, I have something of an obsession with trying to come up with original ideas. It is rather annoying, and I wish I wasn't so preoccupied with it.

I will think of an idea, get all excited about it, and start planning a story based on it. Eventually I'll take a step back and sort of look at the whole thing and think "crap, this is similar to (insert other popular fictional work.)"

Even if it only has a passing similarity to something else it still bothers me. I think because I don't want people to read something I've written and say "oh he got that idea from this other thing." And then consider my work just a rip off of something else without giving it a real chance.

Now I know being wholly original nowadays is quite difficult, and yet I can't help scrapping story ideas due to my need to have them be as original as possible.


I'm exactly the same way, but I find that nothing is completely original at this point.



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06 Aug 2010, 3:45 pm

Variant wrote:
In the context of writing, I have something of an obsession with trying to come up with original ideas. It is rather annoying, and I wish I wasn't so preoccupied with it.

I will think of an idea, get all excited about it, and start planning a story based on it. Eventually I'll take a step back and sort of look at the whole thing and think "crap, this is similar to (insert other popular fictional work.)"


I'm sure at some point while writing Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Ms. Rowling said to herself, "This contains wizards and giants. Crap, this is similar to Lord of the Rings, and countless other fantasy novels." You know what? I'm glad she kept writing. Don't worry about if it looks similar to something else. The main thing is to try and come up with an original plot with interesting characters that you can weave in. Even if your story is about vampires as long as the story and characters are creative it worth pursuing.


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06 Aug 2010, 5:07 pm

I use to have the same problem. However after reading about my favorite authors and such, they were all "inspired" or took ideas and elements from other stories. Whether it's from folk stories, history or even other fiction. It's just how you use it.