I talk quite often about originality and the unfortunate way that word is almost treated with contempt in certain indie publishing circles.
Over the last couple of months I have also seen quite a number of prominent indie publishing gurus write articles and record videos about the subject, mostly in terms again of treating it as a pejorative.
“Don’t worry about being original!”
“It’s not that important”
“It’s not copying, it’s paying homage to …”
Now, while these statements all grade on my last nerve they aren’t entirely without truth behind them. If we really want to look at what is original there is a case to be made that no story created today is original. In fact, I’d consider it an impossibility. Just about every variation of mythos has already been created centuries before the printing press. In the digital age where there’s a Democracy of Publishing aka Self Publishing it goes without saying that you’ll see themes and myths repeated.
That part I don’t disagree with at all. However, that’s not what the issue is with most of the people I see playing defense on the whole originality issue.
Original Myths vs. Original Stories
A myth, or even a trope, are at the core of storytelling. Girls meets boy, stranger comes to town, the hidden world undiscovered: all of these themes and a few others are the basis of every single story you’ll ever read, watch, or play. Unless someone discovers a new aspect of reality we’re likely to not have a new myth emerge in our lifetime.
There’s a difference between that and original stories. Telling a story is how we achieve something fresh (which is more important and often confused with originality) in modern fiction. You can take a theme or a myth and tell your own personal story using it as a template. For instance, if your story is about an affair between a wife and a circus clown, you have a unique story based on a tried-and-true myth.
Where there seems to be an issue, and it’s appearing more and more in customer reviews on Amazon for books lately, is when a story is basically following the same story beats and using very similar characters (only slightly altered) as popular books, movies, comics, or even video games.
Defending that with the “nothing is original” excuse is transparent and annoying.
It’s Not Everybody
By no means are most of the prominent indie authors doing this however. Many are creating their own versions and variations of established myths and tropes. They write to a particular genre but the story they’re telling doesn’t feel like you’ve read it before. Nor are they using characters (the Hermione Granger character type is so overused now it’s giving me a headache) that have been established in other series or novels and just inserting them in their own story.
There’s a big difference between The Bad Boy trope and blatantly taking Edward Cullen from Twilight, changing his name to Jorge, having his skin sparkle, and basically go through the same plot points. Some of this stuff borders on parody while others come extremely close to plagiarism.
Write Your Own Stuff
I’m not going to say whether or not someone is or isn’t a true writer or an artist. Being a talented artist and being an original artist aren’t divorced from one another. The fine art world has a history of talented painters doing recreations of other artist’s work.
However, trying to deflect an obvious lack of creativity by saying “nothing is original so it’s no big deal” is lazy and damages the reputation of the indie author community as a whole. A book cover is different. That’s marketing and not the creative. The content of your story is an entirely different thing.
I’ve already read Twilight, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Carrie, The Davinci Code, and countless other popular books. I’ve already seen Star Wars, Star Trek, Iron Man and so on. I’ve played Mass Effect, Metal Gear Solid, Halo, and plenty of other games. I don’t want to re-read it in a book I went on a limb to download or, even worse, paid for. Give me the story that you came up with and not some cobbled together rip off of something that’s already been sold and told a thousand times over.
Need some fun and terrifying reading for the cold months of winter? Looking for a break from the holiday cheer to dive into something more naughty than nice?
Here are Top Ten FREE Horror eBooks you can read during the cold, snowy months of winter in 2017. Ranging from deteriorating zombies to night devils to post-apocalyptic horror, these creepy stories will chill your bones much more than the below freezing temperatures outside!
Rotten Bodies by Steven Jenkins
Dead Days: Season One by Ryan Casey
The Priest of Blood by Douglas Clegg
The Lost Orphans by J.S. Donovan
Miss Polly had a Dolly by Willow Rose
The Black Parade by Kyoko M
Empty Bodies by Zach Bohannon
Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates
Tempt by Claire Farrell
The Dark Verse by M. Amanuensis Sharkchild
Writing isn’t easy. World building is even harder.
It’s been nearly a year since I made the decision to go the self publishing route and one of the main reasons why I wanted to do so was the ability to control your own creative. The only person making decisions on what I will and won’t write is myself. That is such a liberating and freeing experience.
However, that also comes with my large imagination.
Since I can remember I’ve always been a fan of large stories with many characters and various plotlines running throughout the entire story. From Lord of the Rings to Imajica to Star Wars to The Dark Tower series, epics have always intrigued me. They also require an extensive amount of world building and if the creator of such a tale does not have all of her or his ducks in a row, so to speak, it can wind up being a muddled mess.
Use What You Know
When crafting the world of The Dea (the fictional universe that was introduced in The Brothers Locke and will continue in the Dorian Delmontez series) I had a hard time knowing where to start. I knew the world in which all of these characters and stories would exist had to be massive but it had to make sense within its own confines.
How do you get such a massive undertaking mapped out.
Well, I used what I knew, which was painting and outlines. Now, outlines are more common with authors. Some even construct outlines that are over 5,000 words in length. I prefer to use bullet points and continue from there.
But that wasn’t enough. I needed something tangible, something that I could point to and go back to when I hit a dry spot in the story or want to know where to go next. So, I turned to oil painting, a hobby that has come and gone from my life multiple times.
Using what I knew – a brush, canvas, and paint – I was able to start creating over three dozen landscapes, portraits, and scenes that to this day I reference when thinking about and writing future stories in that fictional world.
Of course, if you’re not an illustrator or a painter this may not be the technique for you. However, it does illustrate that using something outside of the realm of pen-to-paper (or keyboard-to-screen as it is now) can be just as helpful, and sometimes more helpful, than banging your head against the desk looking at a blank piece of paper wondering “what do I do?”.
There are many other techniques that can be used from building family trees to writing entire histories and backstories to your various characters to chronicling a fictional historical document about places and landmarks within your world. In the long run, it can take the guessing out of the process of writing when you can pull up a picture or a chart or a graph and know where everything fits.
The main thing is to have fun and let your imagination lead the way. Don’t confine it, let it sprout and grow in any way possible beyond just writing the story. The world will grow with whatever mechanism you use to define it.
I’ve decided finally on the name of the first book in the Kana Cold series.
The new series will begin Spring 2018. Kana Cold is an Asian female heroine, genius level IQ, and skilled in the art of solving paranormal mysteries.
As long as she gets paid.
The Reaping of the Black Grimoires will be a globetrotting mystery adventure as Kana is hired to track down the recently uncovered Black Grimoires of Honorius that were retrieved by a mysterious secret society whose intentions for the knowledge contained in the three tomes are feared by governments and a threat to the Vatican.
More information on this exciting new series will be forthcoming at the end of the year.
Six Twisted Tales of Terror
Omar Snellings had no idea that on this day — the final day of his life — that he’d be introduced to the ethereal forces of Heaven and Hell engaged in a series of card games, or cluichi, that used human souls as currency.
Clive Reznor‘s newest horror anthology book will test your limits. Told in six short stories ranging from gothic horror to social commentary to dark comedy, The Immanent World: Cluichi – A Horror Anthology Series is a thrill ride through the darkest hidden corners of the human mind.
Clive Reznor’s newest horror anthology book will test your limits
For readers who enjoy:
- The Books of Blood, Night Shift, Six Scary Stories, The New Weird
- Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Dean Koontz, Stephen King
- Short story collections / anthologies
- Supernatural tales of angels and demons
- dark comedy, societal horror, body horror
- paranormal, graphic tales, books for adults
This book will be a great addition to your nighttime reading collection.