by Ranee Dillon
The story goes that some U.S. Patent official resigned years ago because everything already exists. His alleged reasoning was since every idea has already been generated, no one needed a patent office.
Though this rumor still exists – and I giggle at the thought – it reminds me of something a college professor told me.
“Only eight story lines exist in the history of the world. No story is ever unique. Therefore, nothing new is ever created. We’re simply regurgitating when we write.”
Being the 28 year old smartass I was, I raised my hand. “So, you’re telling us there’s no point in writing anything,” I said.
“No, I’m bringing to light the fact that you will never create something new,” he said. “So don’t break your back and obsess about writing anything truly original.”
End of discussion.
Back then, I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know enough about commercial fiction to form a comeback. But some twelve years later, well, I can. And there’s a critical difference between what that professor said and what it means to writers everywhere.
Yes, only so many plot lines exist. One way or another, the majority of stories we write fall into a category. (For reference, John Lescroart compiled a very basic list here.) So plots can be interesting and twisty, but they’ll eventually fit somewhere.
Does that mean we’ll never create anything original?
The part of a book that makes it unique, that makes it wholly original, is you. Your voice. The way you phrase things. The life you put into the characters. All of it is unique because no one else has lived your life.
Or as Becky says in THE Guide: “One of the things that sets you apart from every other writer is your story. No one else has lived your life or shared your experiences. Use that. Share your thoughts, opinions and hard-earned lessons. Trust yourself. We like other people who are like us.”
While we can mimic other people’s styles and voices, mostly because we’re afraid our voices won’t be well-received, the plain truth is no one will EVER write the book sitting in your Word document right now.
No one will describe a scene exactly like you. No one else will create characters who have the same hang-ups and insecurities, most of which are formed from your personal life experience.
Sure, plenty of books have similarities, but they don’t have what your book does: YOU.
And that comes through in every word you slap down. It pours out of every chapter like the tipped crevasse of a drunken pirate. When we don’t hedge, when we rip off the straightjacket confining our words to a slow death of monotony, that’s the moment our kickass conjurer of worlds comes out to play.
Remember, every time a reader picks up a book, they’re not buying just another story. They’re buying part of you. You are the product, so don’t leave your readers short by making a hasty exit out of your own freaking book.
Give them a reason to come back for more. Make them care. About YOU.
Ranee Dillon is an Amazon bestselling author and writing coach in our Write Raw classes. Her specialties include helping you take back your voice, laser-focusing your plot and kicking the ever-loving shit out of writer’s block.