Originality

Alas, I checked Ebay. The lovely Mimi must have gotten the last one, drat!
So if there are no original plots, how are you supposed to be original? There are thousands of years worth of stories, and hundreds of years worth of novels out there. No matter how amazingly fast you read, you can’t read them all, so how do you figure out what’s been done before?

You can’t entirely, but there’s a few easy things to look out for:

*Tropes: Tropes exist because the same things are done time and again, to the point of ridicule. Yet these things can be twisted into at least a fresher idea. Subvert the tropes. Twist them in ways the reader won’t suspect. Even better, set it up so it looks like you’re following the trope, then pull the rug out from under it. Make your characters grow beyond tropes. I like to take the genre conventions, all those tropes we don’t even see because they’re so ingrained in our cultures, and make characters from them that echo back to those standards, but are so much more. This also is a place where you can look at biases and assumptions, and use those.

*Fairy tales: The princess always gets the prince in the end, but how she gets there is a varied path. On the plus side, fairy tales are always popular, and thus are a pattern you can work with as well. But you have to put something fresh with it. Style, voice, characters who refuse to follow tradition.

*Brainstorm: If in doubt, brainstorm every possible way the scenario could turn, no matter how ridiculous! In certain nanos, my solution was to blow everything up. Others, they got sucked through a dimensional breach. Find some way to make it move, to turn what’s going on upside down and inside out. Think of every option, and then think of more of them. What’s going to be least expected, and still work for the story?

How do you keep your stories fresh? Do you have any favorite tropes you like to use in your writing?

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