Two weeks ago, I wrote some ideas on how to brainstorm story ideas. There are so many plots that have already been done that it sometimes is hard to come up with something new and unique. While yes, your story may be original with its characters, but many times the story itself has been told before.
Some people say that there are no new stories. That everything that comes out is just a rehashed version of other stories, and if you look at the movie industry with all of its “remakes” of older movies it would be easy to conclude this is true.
In many stories, the originality doesn’t come for the actual story but from the tone of the story or the characters involved. If you can create unique characters, an “old” storyline can be brought to new life.
I read an interesting blog by author Melissa Donovan on original ideas. She said that although ideas, plots and characters may already exist in someone else’s story, it isn’t so much coming up with something new. It is a matter of using your imagination to take old concepts and put them together in new ways. She gave this example that I just love.
To test her theory, see if you can guess the following famous story:
A young orphan who is being raised by his aunt and uncle receives a mysterious message from a stranger, which leads him on a series of great adventures. Early on, he must receive training to learn skills that are seemingly superhuman. Along the way, he befriends loyal helpers, specifically a guy and a gal who end up falling for each other. Our young hero is also helped by a number of non-human creatures. His adventures lead him to a dark and evil villain who is terrorizing everyone and everything that our hero knows and loves — the same villain who killed his parents.
If you guessed that this synopsis outlines Harry Potter, then you guessed right. However, if you guessed that it was Star Wars, you’re also right.
See, isn’t that a great example. I for one first thought of Harry Potter and was amazed to see it is the same plot for the original Star Wars series. Melissa’s test shows that two stories can have many similarities – basic plot structure and character relationships – but be totally different stories when executed by different authors.
Now, I am not suggesting you look to other books or movies for your story ideas. While you can get inspired by these stories, you want to make sure you don’t copy the ideas of others. Do not think that a few changes to the plot or characters will make it your own. You need to figure a way to put your own spin, your own uniqueness onto the story line rather than use someone else’s.
So are original storylines out there? Well, maybe not but you can certainly come up with something new, unexpected or thrilling just the same.