Original ideas – do they matter?

I’m having a different freakout today. It’s about original ideas. Now, if you are anything like me, you had an idea which grabbed you and wouldn’t let go. You devoted a large amount of time, blood, sweat and tears to this idea and you now have n x 1000 words of this story written down. Now you look back at it and you think, is that really original?

They say there are only about half a dozen storylines. I’m guessing these are boy meets girl, hero goes on a quest, and several others. They say there are no original ideas, only original treatments of old ideas. Well, that’s great, but I would really like to meet up with “them” and bang their heads against a brick wall.

Not because I think that will help me come up with an original story. Oh no, that’s entirely up to me. I just hate the smug way “they” have of saying that no one can do anything new because it’s already been done.

I hate them.

Yes, I know I’m irrational. But really, does that seem fair to you? It doesn’t seem fair to me, but maybe that’s because I wouldn’t know an original idea if it jumped up in my face shaped like a purple dog. With eight legs. Ok, the eight legs might be a giveaway. MIGHT.

So I’m worried I’m not original enough. No one else has published what I’m doing. I hope. I haven’t heard of every single freakin book so I actually have no idea if my idea is original or not, but I haven’t heard of anyone else doing it. But I’m worried that it’s not different enough when compared to other people’s stuff. Because, let’s face it, no one wants to be one more out of a million. You want to stand out, be THE ONE. That book that everyone is buying for their summer holiday, you want it to be yours. Don’t you? I do.

I know everyone says that you shouldn’t even think of that because it will never happen, but it seems like you have to be really different to succeed, so not aiming to be really different seems counterproductive to me. You either want to be different and stand out and be successful, or… you don’t.

I always thought that in order to be successful you had to aim to do something really well or there really wasn’t much point in bothering.

Just had a moment of deja-vu. I think I might get some interesting comments to this post. Remember – be nice.
So, what do you think? How different do you have to be? Or is it really just a matter of promotion in order to stand out from the crowd?

About Mhairi Simpson

Writer, dreamer. Magic, dragons, pink mice, cake. Come say hi!
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12 Responses to Original ideas – do they matter?

  1. Regardless of whether there are original ideas, every human being IS original. Which means that your voice, characterizations, style and treatment of the theme will be original. I figure, as long as an author puts in the work to develop a good story that’s all it really takes.

    • This is true of good stories, but there is something else that makes stories great. Some spark in the writer that connects to a spark in the general reading public that neither party knew was there.

  2. Debs says:

    You are the only person who can write like you, Anne-Mhairi. That’ll do.

  3. Akoss says:

    If I’m exited about “my” original idea, it’s original enough to me. Don’t worry so much about what “they” say. Write what you love to write. It doesn’t matter if an idea has been done before, it’s how you approach it in your story that’s going to make the difference.
    I also think it all comes down to taking risks as well. Remember the glittering vamps?

  4. Liz says:

    I once heard a music teacher say that there are only 12 notes and 7 rhythms, yet look at the vast diversity of music. It isn’t the generalities that matter. It’s the vast amount of permutations in those “old ideas”.

  5. What Liz, Akoss, Debs and Sierra said!

    I for one think we make too big a deal out of originality. I studied Shakespeare in grad school. No one in his time period worried about writing an original idea. Everyone was interested in going to see a Shakespeare play because they wanted to see how he presented stories that were already somewhat familiar.

  6. tangynt says:

    I’ve come to notice that you don’t have to necessarily have an original story, just an original spin on a classic.

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