What do they say – there’s nothing new under the sun?
When it comes to stories, I’m sure they’re right. After all, humanity has been around for thousands and thousands of years. In that time, countless stories have been told. There can hardly be any new story left that hasn’t already been recounted.
And my stories are just the same. If you analyse them closely. If you look at the structure of the narrative and how it resolves. If you examine the archetypal nature of the characters. If you consider the themes and ideas that are expressed. I’m sure you’ll find all sorts of similarities with other, older stories.
As a writer, this makes sense for a number of reasons. Firstly, most of what I know about stories comes from other stories. When I sit down to write something new, my major reference points are going to be previous stories that I’ve read (or watched). The various tools I use to construct my stories will be wholly derived from those other stories. It’s no surprise that there will be many points of similarity.
Another positive aspect of emphasising the commonalities between my stories and those that have come before is in the marketing of those stories. When you’re telling other people about those stories, it’s necessary to have a point of reference. Potential readers need to have some idea of the nature of the story, and comparing it to other stories is the simplest way. If you liked story X, then you’ll like my stories too. It makes complete sense.
And yet, I’d like to think there’s more to my stories than a mere retooling of older work. After all, if that was the case, why would I bother writing them? And what purpose would there be for other people to read them? While everything I write has numerous points of similarity with other stories, I also try to ensure there are significant points of difference.
One of those points of difference, I believe, is the way that I mix up elements from those older stories – in effect, the way I mash up genres. I try to ensure that my stories combine aspects from different genres in new and interesting ways. While the common elements might be there, they’ll be mixed up in ways that readers might not expect.
Another point of difference I work on is trying to bring in new elements to traditional genres. Society is always growing and adapting. Values change. Ideologies evolve. Technological developments can have unexpected impacts. Incorporating these elements into a traditional story structure can help to create something original.
Finally, and most importantly, what I really aim to do is add a bit of myself into everything I write. While there may be many examples of each of the classic story types, there’s only ever been one me (as far as I’m aware). Inserting that personal touch is a sure way to ensure anything I create appears sparkling and new.
So that’s one of the biggest (and also most enjoyable) challenges any writer faces. Trying to ensure their story, which is sure to be similar to many other stories, is also different.
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