Monday, 16 April 2012

O is for Original

It's really hard to be original. The compliment of 'original' is one I aspire to, but how do writers, musicians and artists keep their ideas fresh when they are bombarded with stories in the press, novels, TV, songs, film, gossip...? Hasn't every story and plot already been done gazillion times?
Well, yes. And, in my opinion, also, no. The basic plot may the be same, but the way it's told, the characters can be presented in a completely novel way. Or reinvented for a new audience, anyway. For example, I have recently read The Butterfly Cabinet by Bernie McGill.

The book takes a familiar story - the abuse and neglect of children - and turns it on its head by making you follow the accounts of two women, one the mother, in her year in prison following her conviction, and one the maid in the house, talking to a living link between the two families. It takes a shockingly familiar story and presents it in such a fresh way, the mother telling her story partly through the butterflies she collected, and the maid in a second person recollection, almost talking to herself while she relates the dark secrets of the past to the almost invisible visitor. Set in the 1890's in Portstewart, NI, it the idea came from a true case of a child killed in the town. I loved the way the mother was gradually revealed as more sympathetic and the maid as more complex and complicit as the book went on. Beautiful writing.  

So, originality is always possible. They say there are only half a dozen basic plots yet they can be incarnated in a million different ways. 

PS I've got a bit ahead of the A-Z so will catch up with P on Wednesday!   


  1. Being original is aways a concern for the creative mind. Sometimes we think we've found it and then there will always be someone who can deconstruct your story enough to bare the bones every other story shares. And you didn't even knew!! I think the best way to achieve originality is to be true to yourself. Each person is different to the other and sees the world different so we have the capacity to inject our stories with our own believes and experiences. Things get repeated and unoriginal when we try to be like someone else.

    Good luck with the challenge.
    From Diary of a Writer in Progress

    1. Hi Gina, thank you for visiting. I think your analysis is perfect - we are originals and that's what should shine through. Enjoy the rest of A-Z challenge, I'm not sure what to do with X, Y and Z!

  2. I'll have to check out The Butterfly Cabinet. I've gotta say, this Blogging From A to Z challenge has dramatically increased the size of my tbr pile :)

    I read your post for 'N' as well and I feel your pain. When I start writing a novel more often than not it ends up in Novella land too. Which sucks because novellas are tricky creatures to sell lol

    ~ Rhonda Parrish

    1. Almost impossible, Rhonda! I was told on the MA I recently studied, that if you write novellas or shirt stories, link them together into a novel to increase their chance of selling!