Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Originality. . .  Is there truly nothing original in writing these day? Are there no new plots? Settings? Professions? Characters?

Long ago I read that there are only so many plot lines, and they've all been used. With our world becoming smaller and smaller there really are no new settings left to explore nor professions. And characters...we've seen them all from the toothless, crusty cowboy to the upper, Manhattan power chick. Yes, they have been done. Think about it. How many different vampire stories do we need? How many time travels are sufficient? And how many times will love conquer all?

Now if I were a pessimist I'd probably throw in my pen and paper computer keyboard and stop writing altogether. But I'm not. I'm an optimist. does an author write original novels?

There are a number of ways, but I'm going to focus on two: mix the pot and keep your audience guessing.

1) Mix the pot.
    So what if there are only a few plot lines. Big deal. Let's mix the pot and stir things around. For instance, say you're writing about the Civil War. There are a ton of Civil War stories: Gone with the Wind, North and South, and on and on. But what if your story is about a Yankee nurse who one day awakens to find she's in a different war? She's come forward to the End of Days War. Can you imagine the layering you could do with a story like that? Why has she been transported to another time? What could her lesson be? Would she fall in love? If given the chance would she go back? Would she stay? Of course, you're going to need to layer her character with wonderful traits and history that would reflect well in both times. But now you have a ton of possibilities all because you mixed things up.

2)  Keep your audience guessing.
Let me explain. If in your story you have a little old grandma who loves to write, don't have her write poetry and knit. Have her write thrillers and ride a Harley. Of course, you're going to have to do the ground work and add context that makes her believable, but wouldn't you rather read a story about the second grandma rather than the first? And that's not meant to knock poetry or knitting, I'm just saying poetry and knitting is what most people would expect, so keep your audience guessing, give them the unexpected not only in your characters, but in your plot twists. If you're writing a romance and the big scene comes where the guy finally gets the courage to ask the girl out, but you can't have her go with him, throw in something more. What if she suddenly tells him she's a spy and has been sent to kill him. That's not expected and could take your story into many directions depending upon the tone you want.

I know there are many more ways to be original in your writing. Please share your thoughts.


  1. LOL, I think number two is based on me...A harley riding poetry riding Mum that can't knit...

    I was at a conference with the great Patti Gauch and she said, "There are no new stories, only new ways to write them." If you look at Twilight, it's really just a teenage romance with a big twist. If you take out the paranormal stuff it could look very much like a normal teenager's life and heartache.

    Nice post, Kathi!

  2. Great tips! I read somewhere that even though love, betrayal, regret, friendship, family, happiness, etc. have all been written about, no one has seen and experienced those things the same way you have. As long as you stay true to who you are rather than imitating someone else, then that's original.

  3. Great advice! Find a way to make our characters real but unexpected and we get originality.

  4. I also like to add a little funny into the mix. Great post Kathi! Thanks! =)

  5. Sharon,
    I love what Patti Gauch said, that there's no new stories only new ways to write them. Very true!

    So, you ride a Harley? Way cool! I want to read your story. :)

  6. Laura,
    I like that...stay true to who you are and your writing will be original. Thanks! :)

  7. Jill,
    It sounds simple, doesn't it? And yet, there are days when I wonder. :)

  8. Carolyn,
    A little funny is always good to stir into the mixing pot. :) Thanks for the reminder.

  9. Keep your audience guessing is a must. One cannot simply tell a story. Too predictable. One thing I like to make whatever is motivating the protagonist become bigger than the bad guy himself, who at the end becomes somewhat of a secondary character in the scope of things.

  10. I agree. That's what you have to do - take a plot line that's been used over the years and make it new and yours.

  11. Stephen,
    Making the motivation of the protagonist bigger than the villain is a great way to strength the main character and make him/her a favorite for readers. Thanks!

  12. Helen,
    I, too, think making a story new and yours keeps it original. Thanks for stopping by. :)

  13. Oh Kathi, I love your ideas!! In my current MS, I'm really trying hard to do just that--finally!

  14. Terri,
    Thanks! I can't wait to hear more about your manuscript. :)



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