Please welcome today’s Guest Blogger, author Isabelle Peterson, who’s here to talk about originality in stories.
Originality in Stories
by Isabelle Peterson
I hear it every day. “I read a book like that once.”
And to that, I say, “So what?”
That’s the brilliance of books. And movies and songs and every other artistic adventure.
I could bore you with the various lists out there, the unique names to each theme and theme set, but it boils down to the frequently spouted:
There are only seven basic stories out there, just all told in a unique way.**
Even writings dating back to Aristotle say there are only six stories. Some groups will cite more “basic plots”—up to thirty-six; however, many of those thirty-six are subcategories of the ‘basic seven.’
The key part of that saying is the just all told in a unique way part.
Why do I bring this up? Why do I say, “So what?”
Let’s analyze three stories being told in various ways:
- The story of King Arthur
- J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings
- J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series
Each features a young man who was orphaned, left to be raised by someone other than his parents, unaware of his full heritage: Arthur, a king; Aragorn, also a king; and Harry, a wizard.
Each young man is set on an incredible quest: the search for the Holy Grail; the destruction of the Ring; and, well, Harry had several, starting with the protection of the Philosopher’s Stone.
Each employs a wise, old, magical man with a long white beard: Merlin, Gandalf, and Dumbledore.
And each vanquishes a villain: Mordred, Sauron, and Voldemort—excuse me, “He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named.”
And I could go on…
When the Crossfire Series by Sylvia Day came out, so many people were furious that the story seems “so closely patterned” after E.L. James’ Fifty Shades series.
Christian Grey vs. Gideon Cross (C.G. versus G.C.), Ana vs Eva (a female name with three letters), younger woman falling for an older, billionaire man—who is incredibly powerful at a young age for the business world—with a dark, troubled past that influences his present self, where said younger woman helps to free or tame these demons.
I’m sure that if we sat down and talked, we could come up with dozens of books.
In fact, my book, Ditching the Dream, has rung a similar chord with other books out there, namely the Temptation Series by K.M. Golland and Jani Kay’s Open Your Eyes. Each of our stories have heroines who are older, in her late thirties to midforties. Married or just out of marriage. Maybe a love triangle. Similar words of wisdom are woven in.
But guess what, folks? REAL LIFE IS LIKE THIS, TOO! I’m not the only mother of two teens out there in the world, in my state, or even in my town. Maybe those other moms drive a car like mine. Perhaps they also have husbands who commute into the city daily with occasional out of town trips. In fact—I can guarantee it. But there are so many things in our lives that make our stories different.
And this is precisely what happens with similar stories. Things are similar, but there is usually so much more that has meaning to the story that makes it different. Unique. Exciting.
So, get out there. Tell the story bouncing in your head the way you want to tell it. It may have similar ringings to other works out there, but your story will still be yours and will find an audience all the same. Sometimes it’s that very similarity that will lead readers to you.
**Christopher Booker wrote a book released in 2004 titled The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories.
It’s a very long book, so here are the CliffsNotes™ (extra points to those of you who know what CliffsNotes™ are). He states the seven basic plots as:
- Overcoming the Monster
- Rags to Riches
- The Quest
- Voyage and Return
There are others who will say there are three, five, twenty, some analysts cite thirty-six.
And because I’m also a screenwriter, in film there are ten:
- Good vs. Evil
- Love Conquers All
- Triumph over Adversity
- Individual vs. Society
- The Battle
- Death as a Part of Live
- Loss of Innocence
- Man vs. Himself
- Man vs. Nature
But that’s for another article!
About the author
The short story:I’m the wife of a most fabulous man for twenty years.
I’m a mother of 2 busy teens.
I’m a dog lover.
I’m a serious drinker of coffee and wine.
I live near New York City.
My favorite place that I’ve visited is Monaco.
My favorite color is green (but I look best in pink/salmon).
My favorite food is chocolate.
My favorite kind of music is New Country.
The long story:
I’ve always been a creative sort of person… I started with my college studies in Advertising Design and Illustration. I’m good at drawing and coming up with clever ideas.
As for story telling—well, that’s where I have the most fun! Ditching The Dream is my first novel, but I’ve been working on writing movies since what seems like forever. Way back in high school, my friend Aimee and I started writing a movie, and I was hooked. We didn’t know what we were doing, but we loved coming up with the story. I also like to come up with stories about people I don’t know. Like the guy who cut me off on the expressway… He had quite a story—at least in my mind! Who knows? Maybe I’ve come up with a story about you! 😉
Ditching The Dream is a story that came to me while I was helping two author friends of mine. I was helping them with their books and I would make suggestions to amp up their stories along the way. Bev and Amy encouraged me to write my own story, and Ditching The Dream was born. Is it auto-biographical? No, not in the least. But it sure has been a fun story to come up with—especially when my hubby gets involved with coming up with ideas.
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21 Dec 2015 - Recs