writing a poem

You are not original. And why that’s a good thing.

So, enough with the throat clearing, here’s the first real post on my fantasy story. In this post, I want to briefly show where I got my idea (you know, the thing everyone always wants to know from big time authors). The next posts will be how the idea cristallized into shape to become something tangible before launching into the nitty gritty on characters and locations.

Where do you get your ideas?

So as I mentioned in one of my first posts, I have an idea for a fantasy novel that for a long time has just eluded me in writing. I figured I just had to write something else before that, in order to get the practice and skills needed to actually write up that idea. The good thing is, I’m a voracious reader and consumer of stories and I also have a background of studying English Literature, so general story structure and the analysis thereof is something I just know. Bonus. The bad thing is, I’m a voracious reader and a consumer of stories and have a background on English Lit – and guess what: that made me realize my original ideas were not enough to fill a novel or pretty lame. Bummer.

I got stuck on the ideal that I had to be super original; do something no one else has. And that’s really, really hard. Because like anyone with my kind of background will tell you, you can’t really tap into an ether of unmade, unused imagination. That’s a good thing! The entire human history is one of thought and imagination and we have been telling stories for a very long time now.

There’s no such thing as being original in story. So stop trying.

What you can do is rework existing ideas into your personal mashed up version that will be unique because of YOU and YOUR vision of the world. And going from there is easy. Because you just have to know your own world view. There’s so many great ways to do that – here’s my favorite: think of your three most favorite stories and try to find the common denominator in those three. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Need some help? Ok. Here’s my quick version. Three great stories in three different mediums: Lord of the Rings (novel), Star Wars (movie), Mass Effect (Game). Commonality? In all of them, a very small minority (hobbits/fellowship, Skywalker & team, Commander Shepherd & team) are up against a huge world (or galaxy) spanning evil power and even when it looks like there’s every odd against them and no way they could possibly ever make it, they pull through, walk through the valley of darkness and deliver (at great personal cost) although the majority of the world couldn’t really give a damn.

Now, I’m going to do a scary thing and expose myself on the internet and say: that is how I see the world, this reality. I really do. Our reality is a dark place that is out to swallow you whole. But. I am Samwise Gamgee saying (movie version): there’s some good in this world and it’s worth fighting for. Even though you’re small and don’t really count. Even though no one cares or knows about what you do. Even though the dark side is more powerful. “Look! The Stars! There’s beauty up there.” That evil cannot touch.

And there’s the idea for a story right there. What if the main character isn’t a great Lord or Lady or warrior or most powerful magic wielder in the world, just a regular person in a large world that’s at peril? So, take it from there: who is that main character, what is their day job, why is their world at peril, how do they get involved? The rest is imagination and world building. Add a sprinkle of story structure, and ta daa – you nearly have a plot to work by.

Action Step: What’s your world view? Share in the comments!

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