How to avoid trying to be "original" and "perfect"?

ka
kathoga
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Apr 27, 2019 5:44 pm
Platform: Windows

Sat Apr 27, 2019 5:58 pm Post

When I come up with a story idea and then try to flesh it out, I keep getting stuck because I'll say "I saw or read this a thousand times". I want to write a story that doesn't have any cliches or situations that readers / audiences experienced a million times. But I fear this is impossible. Is it? Should I just aim to tell a story without worrying about if it's cliched?

User avatar
gr
Posts: 2111
Joined: Wed Feb 14, 2007 3:57 am
Platform: Mac + iOS
Location: Florida

Sat Apr 27, 2019 6:51 pm Post

I am not the world's expert on this, but I do have thoughts about these things, so here is my two cents:

Fiction depends crucially on recognizable types and situations. It is the reader's expectations based on these that enables you as a writer to communicate what is happening in so few words. So, types/stereotypes/tropes/experience-with-other narratives, and just plain old everyday expectations are a tool for you as an author and there can be no question of outright avoiding them.

That said, it is often the frustration or endangering of those expectations that drive a reader forward, and it is often the unexpected that delights them in the end. Some stories aren't like this, of course, some have a very canonical shape, but manage to be delightful enough "along the way" that we might not care -- adventure stories are often like this. But if you are just starting out, I would not rely on your writer-foo like that to carry you through. You should build in some interesting turns in the shape of your stories.

So, I think it will pay to think about what kind of twist or new spin you could put on that otherwise familiar-sounding storyline. And if your story is going to seem to follow a familiar path for a time, be sure to include some unusual element early on that will indicate to the reader that they should not think they know where your story goes.

You don't have to reinvent the wheel to have a unique spin on something. I am reminded of a line from a well-known director (whose name is totally slipping my mind) about regular episodic television series. He said the reason they work is because as viewers we basically really want to see the same show every week -- but different.

gr
gr : Scrivener user : not affiliated with Lit^Lat
Image
"Nothing, like something, happens anywhere." —Philip Larkin

User avatar
Fluff
Posts: 1522
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2010 7:48 pm
Platform: Mac + iOS
Location: On the Astral Plane with Pangur bán

Sun Apr 28, 2019 9:17 am Post

gr wrote:I am not the world's expert on this,

Pangur has just muttered in my ear, reading over my shoulder, "Seems like the only flaw in gr's offering, that I can see."


Take care,
Fluff.
Sent from Pangur ban's Astral iPad

ka
kathoga
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Apr 27, 2019 5:44 pm
Platform: Windows

Sun Apr 28, 2019 3:33 pm Post

Thanks GR, definitely food for thought.

User avatar
devinganger
Posts: 1684
Joined: Sat Nov 06, 2010 1:55 pm
Platform: Mac, Win + iOS
Location: Monroe, WA 98272 (CN97au)
Contact:

Thu May 02, 2019 6:52 am Post

gr wrote:You don't have to reinvent the wheel to have a unique spin on something. I am reminded of a line from a well-known director (whose name is totally slipping my mind) about regular episodic television series. He said the reason they work is because as viewers we basically really want to see the same show every week -- but different.


The only point I could add to this wonderful advice is that often, discovering that tweak or spin can be the result of a process. I know that I personally struggle with getting words down in my initial draft because I want to jump to the end where my polished prose is stunning and I am at a major award ceremony in the middle of my acceptance speech. :)

Go ahead and give yourself permission to put the cliches in your draft. Get it written. Get it *done*. Then set it aside and work on something else, and then come back and revise. When you see a cliche, that's an opportunity to ask yourself:

1) Do I mean to use this cliche, or did it creep in unintentionally?
2) If I meant to do it, how can I modify it so it's both familiar and fresh?
3) If I didn't mean to do it, what is my brain trying to tell me? How can I use this? Does this somehow connect with another character or plot?

With this revision mindset, you're not trying to prevent "bad" writing from occuring, you're encouraging *mindful* writing where you have taken what you wrote earlier and are now consciously sculpting it. It takes more time and patience, and writing mindfully like this is hard, but it is the only way I am aware of to build the real-time awareness and muscle memory of letting your "mistakes" be the veins of originality in your story.
--
Devin L. Ganger, WA7DLG
Not a L&L employee; opinions are those of my cat
Winner "Best in Class", 2018 My First Supervillain Photo Shoot