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It's Already Been Done (but not like yours!)


An idea for a new story comes to mind and you feel excited about it. Then you realize that there are already quite a few stories out there on the same subject. How can you make yours different and original without copying anything you’ve seen or read?


It’s easy to have some influence from other books or movies you may have seen on the same subject. For me, when I write about a subject that has been done (sometimes to death), I block out anything I may have seen or read on the subject. I stay true to my original idea and barrel on from there, letting the story unfold as I write it. Some of the stories I have written are not subjects that have appealed heavily to me in the past. Some interest, not great, and nothing I have searched out. This is probably good as my outside influence is minimal since I have not seen or read much on the subject.


If I reread and find something that might be familiar or somewhat similar to another story, I revise and take it out. It’s not possible to read and see everything out there in terms of movies so there is no way to know if what you are writing has truly been done in some form before. In certain small ways, there may be similar elements to other stories (romance, a robbery, a killing, a setting, etc) but as long as your plot is original, from your own mind, you will be fine.


I actually will avoid reading stories that are on the same subject as mine while writing my first draft. This way, I cannot be influenced by the story or the details. I may read it afterward, for a possible comp, but not before. I like the originality to come from my mind and the last thing I want to do is to steal someone else’s idea, consciously or subconsciously.


One of my stories includes alien activity. Another introduces a mermaid into the story and another involves a time machine along with a serial killer. All these have been written about in one form or another and some may think have even been done to the point that there is nothing else to do with that subject. I don’t find this to be true as anyone can come up with a new spin or twist on an old subject. None of these are subjects that I have written about has really intrigued me in the past so I can honestly say I have not watched movies about mermaids (except for Splash). My idea on the mermaid story I feel is quite different than others that are out there. I do know for a fact that none of it has been taken from other sources as I have not delved into this subject with my reading materials or the movies I watch.


Same as the one that includes an alien element. I have seen my share of alien movies but the story that came to my mind is different than anything I have seen. That’s not to say that what I have written may not be out there somewhere but I have never seen another story with the same elements mine has in it. So, it has been done in some ways but I have not seen nor read anything that is quite like my alien story. Even if there are some similarities to other stories, I feel my main ideas are purely original and not taken from other stories.


I would find it much harder to write about a subject that is a favorite of mine because I would have more than likely read much on the subject. I would have watched movies or documentaries on the subject, all of which would have some influence over the way I would write about that subject. I think it would be hard to not refer back to what you know, have read, have watched, or learned on a subject.

With that said, you do want to know about the subject you write about. I learn as I go but because many of my subjects are not real (mermaids, aliens, time machines, etc), it gives me the freedom to be the expert of that world and create as I see fit. That part of it is the best part of fiction, for me. It’s my world and I can create it as I see fit. It kind of opens up the landscape as big as I want it to be and gives me the kind of creative freedom I love.


Bottom line is to write about whatever it is that you want, whatever it is that is driving you. No matter if it has been done many different ways, make sure yours is different, a new twist on an old subject. We have all seen new takes on old fairy tales. They are great stories but can they be improved on? Sure, many people feel they can be and that is what they do, take that old story and breath new, exciting, different life into it. The same rules apply here. Take that old subject and give it that spin that only you can. No one else is in your head so those ideas that you come up with are most likely pretty unique to you and you alone. Use them and show the world your uniquely creative side.

Happy reading, happy writing!


Doug

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