Original is defined as present or existing from the beginning; first or earliest. It’s also said to be an eccentric or unusual person. Well, that’s clear as mud.
It can be difficult to be original. Some even say that there aren’t any original ideas or thoughts left. Mark Twain famously stated, “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”
Do you agree? Perhaps on a quantum level, so to speak, that’s true; we take all these tiny pieces that are established ideas and feelings, and put them together to form a bigger picture. Maybe it’s the bigger picture that needs to be as original as possible. Then again, readers also like age-old themes and concepts because they tend to be relate-able.
Either way, I believe striving for originality in our writing is critical. We all have writers we admire and wish to emulate, but to what degree? For me, I won’t even bother trying to be like my favorite authors, because I know that ‘s as likely as me staging underwater Civil War reenactments. If you have a story (boy meets girl; boy loses girl, etc) the key to originality may be with the characters. How interesting and unique you make them, can sell the story. Make them memorable people and you may just have yourself a winner. But just your everyday folks? Boring. So then your setting has to be rock solid.
How about when it comes to trends? At the NCW conference this year, a publisher said that editors don’t want to see anymore dystopian stuff . . . unless, it’s unique and original. How do you know when you’ve done that? I suppose it’s when you sell the manuscript.
Do you agree with Twain? And how difficult do you think it is to be original? And do you feel it’s essential as a writer to be original?