Today I got a very interesting PM from a fan. It was in regards to an ongoing little novelette that I had written called “Vindictus, the Dark Lord.” This was a little story that I had actually started writing on 3 separate occasions, with 3 different takes on the storyline. I ended up taking pieces from all 3 different parts and wove them into this one tale. As the story progresses, there are a few flashes of “history” regarding this make-believe world and the characters in it. It wasn’t anything all that great or special in my eyes, although I did put a good bit of thought and effort into the history behind this story and a lot of time and energy into the creation of the characters. What had started off as something that I had jotted down and pushed to the back of my mind soon became a story that had fans begging for more.
I have had dozens of comments on this story, all kind-hearted words of enthusiasm and encouragement, and quite a few, “Please! Write more! I love this!” My PM from today was more of the same, for the most part. Except that it wasn’t all entirely praise. The reader had made the comment that I had gotten quite a few myths and legends wrong in the story. I replied with a polite thank you and informed the reader that the story had not been taken from any myth or legend that I was aware of, and if it did resemble something else from Greek mythology, then it was purely coincidental on my part. After all, I have never studied any of the mythologies of the world.
I am not saying that I am original in all of my works, because with several billion people on this planet it is really hard to come up with anything that is completely unique any more. I do put forth a lot of effort and thought into my stories, the plotlines of those stories, the characters, and even the world and culture that the characters live in. Often times the world gets created before the characters do. I realize, however, that there are going to be a lot of books and stories out there that are going to sound a lot alike. But this statement from one of my readers got me to wondering. Are people really getting to the point where they would rather rip-off someone else’s hard work than come up with their own creation? Or have readers gotten so use to reading stories that all sound alike that when a writer actually does come up with something remotely unique, the reader immediately assumes that it has been taken from some mythology or legend of old?
It makes me wonder what ever happened to writers depending upon their own creativity and convictions to come up with something that no one else has ever thought of. It use to be an embarrassment for a writer to come up with anything that remotely resembled any other author’s work. They would rather cut off their own finger than have a critic compare their work to something else that had already been done. Writers use to take pride in exercising their creativity and coming up with something so very unique and surprising that the literary world would be forced to take pause.
Now days it seems that writers either don’t want to take the time and put forth the energy required to come up with their own ideas, or they simply cannot get in touch with the creativity and imagination that it takes to be a really great writer. Someone had made mention that we were educating our children right out of their creativity. I believe that perhaps we are, to some extent.
My music appreciation instructor posed the question, “Do you think that Mozart would have been as good of a musician or accomplished all that he had if he had been born in the 20th century?” My response was, “No.” While I believe that the raw musical talent would have been there, I do not believe he would have become the master musician that he was if he had been educated in today’s society. We spend so much time trying to make our children “more well-rounded” that we are, in fact, educating them right out of their creativity. We no longer try to teach them to “think for themselves” when it comes to creativity, only to do their own work and not copy their neighbor’s test. Creativity, in today’s world, is being able to put a positive spin on a business’ latest bad publicity. We are so wrapped up in pushing “facts” onto our children and insisting that they stick to nothing but the “facts” that they are ceasing to be able to come up with a single creative thought on their own. We are, in essence, trading phenomenal natural talent and creativity for the ability to write computer software programs and build large monetary empires out of a well-planned idea.
With so few writers being encouraged to “think outside the paragraph” and come up with their own ideas, it’s no wonder that a huge portion of today’s literature all sound like spin-offs from the same plotline. I’m not saying that you can’t write about vampires because all the “good” ideas have already been thought of. The whole point behind being creative is to look at what others have not already come up with. If everyone is writing about vampires and werewolves and you know this would be a great hit, why not flex your creativity muscle and try thinking of something unique that would stand out. Create a whole new species, try a plotline that no one else has ever thought of, or toss in every single element every written about the idea and weave it into one epic novel. Don’t be afraid to take risks because you think no one would be interested. If Bram Stoker had not taken a risk and bet the bank on the fact that females would fall in love with an undead walking body that sucks blood to remain active, then our subsequent beating hearts would never know the beauty that is Edward Cullen.
In today’s literary world, finding your voice and speaking up loud and clear will help to separate you from the sea of mediocrity that is the publishing business. Don’t be afraid to try out new ideas, to think outside the paragraph, to give rise to that frightful creature who impregnates his victims with a phallus tongue. Variety is, after all, the spice of life. Unless, of course, you don’t mind your readers asking you which myth you stole your ideas from.