Monday, September 29, 2014

Advice For Writers #4: How To Be Original

Let's admit it. There are tons of wannabe copies of Twilight, Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games. Some of them are quite distinctive enough, that most people wouldn't consider them copies. But long-time readers like me could see the similarities easily. In fact, I would probably know it in an instant and wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. Shall I name a few of those copycats? 

The Not-So Originals

Have you ever heard of a series called The Mortal Instruments? Yes, no? Maybe so. Unfortunately, that seemingly original series is a really complicated story. In fact, it can probably be its own memoir. It would probably say something like this: I was once a fanfic of Harry Potter. The story starred Draco and Ginny in love. Well, I'm a bit more complicated than that, but I'm going to say that for simplicity. Anyway, Cassandra Clare, my beloved mother, decided to reborn me in a new body called The Mortal Instruments. Volià! Now, I starred Jace (Draco) and Clary (Ginny) in love.

Okay, there are a few others. The Mortal Instruments certainly isn't obvious, but I shall point out some Twilight fanfic turned into "original" stories. Gasp! Was I too obvious? Cough, Christian, cough! And there are others, of course.

Why not being original is a bad idea:

That is quite an easy question, actually. Because you get criticized immensely by your readers. Need any more reasons? 

Alright. I'll behave. Not being original is pretty bad. For one, you can probably be sued by the authors of the work you're probably plagiarizing. It is pretty extreme, when you end up getting a letter about a lawsuit involving the book you spent months writing and editing, right?

How to be original?

The truth is that there is hardly a way of being truly original. Every concept (well, most of them) had been used, dissected, and buried over and over again. Even the most seemingly original masterpiece holds roots in other literature. The surprising truth is that there is no way to be original. There is just a way to be unique and different while bearing roots to the older books. The trick is to fool your readers into thinking they are reading something new. It might sound a bit nasty, but that is pretty much the way it is.

Harry Potter has some distant relatives, too. The Bible is one notable relative of HP along with some witch book or something like that. How is the Bible a relative? Well, you can draw some parallels between the New Testament and HP. Like resurrection. And there are others, of course.

So while you can probably fool the audience, you probably can't fool Penn and Teller of the books, but the point is that your book should be unforgettable yet also familiar. Original? Well, it is easier to go for unique, but you should always strive for original. And try not to plagiarize people's works. That is definitely not original. 

Happy Writing!

-Penelope Grace

P.S. Isn't the last section of this post the biggest twist of all?

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