Wednesday, March 9, 2016

There Are No New Stories to Tell (But That Shouldn't Stop You From Writing)

Every writer has had that moment. You know, the one where you realize that the story you're working on is just a new version of something you read years ago. Then, once you've seen it in your own work, you see it everywhere. Sons of Anarchy is just Hamlet with motorcycles. Batman is just Zorro in a more contemporary setting, and Zorro is just the Scarlet Pimpernel in Spain-controlled California instead of revolutionary France. The Hunger Games is a less-interesting version of The Running Man, which is itself just a darker take on the sort of world we see in Battle Royale, all of which trace back to even earlier stories like The Most Dangerous Game.

And these two? A mechanized Roland and Oliver.
Every story you know of has already been told, and chances are good it was told back when togas were still considered the most fashionable form of dress. For most of us, this realization creates a weird, existential moment. The sort of moment when we gaze deep into the abyss, and have to really decide whether or not we want to continue writing. Some of us break our pens, close our notebooks, and walk away. Others take up the cry, though, and go howling off into the night, bellowing until our stories are heard.

And what is that phrase we shout, which gives us such courage? What words could possibly push back that darkness, and give us the wherewithal to step into the light and proclaim that our stories deserve to be heard?

You've Never Seen it Like This Before!

So what if your sci-fi novel is just a retelling of the Trojan War, but with space marines and galactic empires? There are two questions, and only two, which you need to answer. Number one: is that a story you want to tell? And, more importantly, number two: is it a story that people want to read? Because if the answer to both of those things is yes, then it's time for you to get cracking.

Seriously, what the hell are you waiting for?
I can promise you right now that any idea you have for a novel has been done by someone, in some way, before. I can also promise you that those other authors didn't write the book the same way you would. So, no matter how many zombie apocalypse stories, or Cold War spy thrillers, or just Westerns there are on the market, that doesn't invalidate your book. After all, The Expendables was just a Frankenstein of every 80s action movie trope and actor we could find, but even though it didn't do anything different, it was unique enough to put a lot of butts in a lot of seats.

That could be your book. Even if it looks like something we've all seen before on the surface, the tone, characters, and specific plot will be unique to you. And, of course, there's always the chance that your readership has never read the older inspirations, so you'll feel new to them, even if you're hitting a lot of classic notes.

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