Wow! It seems like forever since I’ve posted here. It also seems like I start posts with that sentence far too often. Fear not however because after the first of the year it should be getting a little bit better (hopefully!). The past two weeks I’ve been slammed getting ready for and taking finals but at long last I am on Winter Break!! *And the crowd goes wild!* It now seems, work aside, that I have so much extra time for writing activities! Lucky for me however I have undertaken a rather massive and possibly super important writing project in the form of another blog! But, more about that later… For now let us get on to the important part of this post!
So You Are Trying to Write Something “Original”
Don’t. You’ll spend the rest of your writing career looking for that original “something” rather than actually writing.
Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. If you are incredibly (like 1 in a bazillion) you’ll be able to find something new to write about. But we as writers need to face the fact that in the 2,000 some years of literature, pretty much everything has been written about. Pretty dismal prognosis right? When I came to this realization I definitely thought so. At least we’re wrong though!
A regular at my coffee shop (who isn’t even a writer) told me something that I found incredibly helpful. After more or less breaking the same terrifying news I’ve just broke to you, he told me that there is one theme that will always be practical: Good vs. Evil.
It is arguably the most primal plot line in existence, I would argue even more powerful than love. Almost every piece of literature in existence has some form of good and evil. Whether it be the obvious good guys verses bad guys or the more blurred what should be and what is this battle we wage on a daily basis in our ow personal lives is something that we can always relate to. More often than not, most people have the same general opinions of what is good and what is evil and so that takes a huge load off of your shoulders as a writer. It is also something that is timeless. Because of human nature, there will always be both good and evil in the world; there is no escaping it.
This regular at my shop told me that the battle between good and evil is the best place to start. From there, your story can take any shape or form. Because the battle of good and evil takes place in almost every facet of life at one point or another, your options are limitless. He also reminded me not to think of it as a necessarily easy thing to do. Good and evil may sound like a story that more or less writes itself, but be wary of writing a cut and dry account of it. Don’t have a pure hero and a completely diabolical villain. No body wants to read that story; that’s what Disney is for.
The battle of good and evil merely gives you a starting point. From there, it is your responsibility as an author to make it interesting and real. Be sure that your hero has some detrimental flaw or that your villain has moments of utmost humanity in order to keep your reader guessing. If you really want to write something emotionally powerful, blur the lines between what is “good” or “evil.” Some of the best books I’ve ever written have had events where there is good in the evil of a deed leaving me to question my own opinions of what is really “good” or “just.” On that note, justice is another interesting aspect of good and evil you can have a lot of fun with. Is something just despite the evil nature of it? Or does the fact that there was nothing good in the act of justice negate its effects?
As you can easily see, I could ramble on and on about the questions you can raise and the twists you can take. This theme is what I like to call an “Adventure in a Can.” Once you open it, even you won’t necessarily know where it will take you or how it will get there. One thing I will advise is something that I will never be able to emphasize enough: be sure to know your main characters just as well, if not better, than you know your best friend. The key to having a story and its characters write itself (which is an experience that writers search tirelessly for and is really, in my opinion, where the best stuff is written) is knowing exactly how your character will react to any situation or event you put in their lives. Once you know your characters that well, all you have to do is introduce events and other characters – this is where the good and evil come in – and they will react to it in their own way, seemingly out of your control. *On an interesting note, there are occasions where the decisions your own character would make will appall you, and that is absolutely amazing.
So, I have given you a tool to explore in your personal writing; a starting point if you will. Go forth and give it a test drive. Write a little short story and see how much you can put into it and how much you can push the conventions and expectations of this history-old theme. If you can bend and break those conventions and expectations, you will have something of worth in your hands!