Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The one that was supposed to be about writing...

Today I was going to do another post about writing. You know, that thing I do when I'm supposed to be doing other stuff? The thing that (I hope) will let me retire in a few years and just DO IT?

But here's the thing - writing is also reading. Reading your own work, reading other people's work; published, not published, fiction, non-fiction, editorials and tweets. You can't write without something to write about. Maybe something you saw or heard or read yourself. Because there are no original thoughts.

Think about it - what's the last original thought you had? I'm willing to bet that, given time and resources and the willingness to really look inside at the source of that thought, you would found it came from somewhere else. Some external trigger.

Sure, you put an original spin on it; you personalized it and colored Barney orange instead of purple, but in reality, all you're changing are the details.

People have been arguing this for years, but when you look into it, it's depressingly real. A good discussion on the subject, and a list of the seven original plots, can be found at Poe's Deadly Daughters, but for the sake of simplicity, I'll list them here:

  1. [wo]man vs nature
  2. [wo]man vs man
  3. [wo]man vs. the environment
  4. [wo]man vs. machines/technology
  5. [wo]man vs the supernatural
  6. [wo]man vs. self
  7. [wo]man vs God/religion
There is also some argument that this list should be expanded to include an additional seven, as follows, but I see these more as adaptations of the same, original seven:

  1. Overcoming the monster
  2. Rags to riches
  3. The quest
  4. Voyage and return
  5. Comedy
  6. Tragedy
  7. Rebirth
I know what you're saying: wait a minute, I thought you weren't going to write about writing? I thought you were going to write about reading? (say that three times fast, in your head, with a double scotch in your gut. THAT will get you going!)

Ahem - back to the subject at hand: the reason this came up was because I had finished reading two books that I thought were remarkably similar to my first book, only the details were different. Then I got to thinking how those books (and mine) were similar to a play I watched. A play by that good time bard, Will S. 

So, when I'm reading (which I do voraciously), am I just absorbing another telling of an existing plot? Is it reinforcing that plot line in my head? Maybe - it's certainly a possibility, but if that were the case, why would my story be any different than any other story? Why would I read multiple books in the same genre? 

Because of the DETAILS - those sneaky little things like setting, period and character that really make the book, or anything else, worth reading. If I don't create a unique character with quirks and traits and GROWTH (you have to admit, Justine; that was well played!), then there's nothing new to read. It's my manipulation of those elements that make MY story better or different or funnier or more poignant than somebody else's story. 

So, what are you doing to turn your "recycled" plot into something fresh and new? I'd love to hear about it!

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