One of the things I’ve been stressing about lately as a writer (other than wondering how bad my writing really is) is that my story isn’t original. I mean, I’m writing about a serial killer. That’s about as cliché as it gets. Hannibal Lecter, Dexter, plus the hundreds of famous real-life monsters… what do I have to say about serial killers that hasn’t already been said a million times?
The answer is, nothing.
Is there such a thing as a truly original idea? Humans have been telling stories since the beginning of our existence. What could any fiction writer today think up that hasn’t already been thought of by someone else?
I try to read widely, and whether what I’m reading is suspense, horror, mainstream, young adult, romance, or fantasy, common threads always seem to prevail throughout. For example, the Twilight series is about vampires, but remove the vampire element and you basically have a romance/coming-of-age story about the shy new girl who falls in love with the untouchable hot guy. The vampires just make things more interesting… not that there’s anything original about vampires, either.
Joseph Finder is one of my favorite authors. He writes corporate thrillers, but if I’m being totally honest, I know that if you changed the lowly cube rat vs. the evil CEO (a common theme in Finder’s novels) to the lowly law associate vs. the evil senior partner, you’d have John Grisham. But so what? It works. When I buy a new Joseph Finder book, I know what I’m in for, and I’m okay with that. Same with Jeffrey Deaver (who writes the Lincoln Rhyme books) and, yes, even the great Stephen King.
I guess ultimately I’m trying to convince myself that it’s okay for my ideas to not be completely original. I can probably get away with it – most writers do, after all – as long as my writing’s fresh and I tell my story in a unique way.
But then, how do make my writing fresh?
I don’t know.
Great. Now I have something else to stress about.