Is it really that important to be original in your writing?

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Originality is something that is often worried about by writers. I’ve seen more than one person who has elected to not even start writing their book because they don’t feel their idea is original enough.

You never have to worry about your writing being original, because nothing is.

That’s not to say that you should go and write a book about a boy called Barry who goes to a magic school called Bogwarts and fights a dark lord called Mouldywart. Lack of originality and plagiarism are very different things.

To demonstrate why nothing is original, I’m going to talk about why—at their cores—Buffy the Vampire and Lord of the Rings are the same.

If you don’t know, Buffy was a fantastic television series about a young girl, a Vampire Slayer, in high school fighting vampires and other monsters with her high school friends. It was also a social commentary on how the women were often portrayed as the dumb and helpless damsels that needed saving by the men of the world. Lord of the Rings is none of those things. It’s an epic fantasy about a couple of Hobbits who have to travel to a volcano to destroy a magic ring and save their world, as well as the antics of their friends who have to stop their world from being overtaken by orcs and a corrupt wizard.

I’m not saying that the two of those have the same story in their details. What I am saying, however, is that one of the core ideas is shared by both. Somebody—Buffy or Frodo—has to overcome the odds and, eventually, defeat the greatest evil the world has ever seen—The First Evil or Sauron—in order to save the world. To get there, they must overcome various trials and tribulations, both supported and sometimes hindered by their friends. They both have an older, wiser mentor—Giles or Gandalf—who fights on the front lines as well as dispensing advice. They both have a central gimmick that gives them supernatural powers.

Your job as a writer is to take that core idea—underdog saves the world, in this case—and put your own mark on it with the story. The story is where originality comes from. It isn’t an easy thing to do, however. We are constantly influenced by the media we consume, and it is a hard task—especially for newer writers—to develop their own style and way of doing things to put that spin on the story. But with time, practice, and patience, you’ll find that originality will come with the story you create that has those central themes and ideas.

The best way to practice writing original stories is to write stories. The more you write, the better you will develop your own style and voice. After that, your writing will be original because it will be yours. Don’t worry about originality, just write.

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David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.

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