If you’ve been doing this writing thing for more than one day, you’ve likely experienced the following worry:
“What if my story idea ISN’T ORIGINAL?”
And if my experience is any indication, things spiraled downwards from there: “What if it’s cliche? What if there’s nothing new here?! It IS cliche. It ISN’T original. I’m a failure! ALL MY WRITING NEEDS TO BURN!”
Calm yourself. There’s a way to make sure that your story concept is unique.
First, what IS a story concept? It’s the initial idea that made you want to write the thing. It’s the “What If” question that starts everything off. Later, it will be the promise that hooks the reader or audience, and makes them want to experience the story.
So for example: What if Cinderella was a cyborg? What if a rat wanted to be a french chef? What if a fish had to venture across the ocean to find his son who’s captive in a dentist’s office aquarium?
All great concepts. All of which seem to be comprised of two elements: something that we already know about, a set up that establishes expectations, and then something contrasting and surprising, which creates irony or surprise. So the first element of a successful story concept is FAMILIARITY.
Establishing expectations? Something we already know about? Familiarity?! That sounds like the definition of UNorginal.
Hear me out.
What do readers do when foraging for a new novel at the bookstore? Certain readers gravitate to certain shelves. Some go to mysteries, some to crime, a whole lot to romance, and the rest to the other genres that are too numerous to list.
Why is this? Because genres give them a pretty good idea about what they’re going to get. Readers already know the conventions of the genre. They’ve already put in the work of learning, accepting, and enjoying these conventions.
Genres give both reader and writer something to go on right away. For the reader, genres are expectations for story events, setting, character, and more, which are automatically enjoyable to them. For a writer, it’s a set of expectations which can be flipped to create something remarkable and unique.
It’s like telling a joke. Without a setup, there can’t be a punchline.
The genres are the setup, the individual twist the author puts on that genre is the punchline. Or in other words, readers truly do want the same thing –only different.
To illustrate this, let’s take a look at one of the most successful stories of all time.
With space ships, interplanetary travel, sentient robots, and aliens running amok, Star Wars LOOKS to be the kind of story that requires the audience to expend lots of mental energy to comprehend and believe. At first glance, it seems that imaginations are going to have to stretch a great deal, and there won’t be anything familiar to ground us – this SEEMS like an uncomfortably new, unwelcoming world. But I doubt if anyone has ever felt uncomfortable or unwelcome while watching Star Wars. And the reason for this can be summed up with one ellipsis-ended sentence:
Suddenly, all is clear. This isn’t the hard-to-imagine future, this is the PAST. We’re not being asked to imagine and believe a totally new world; we’re being taken to the realm of “far, far away”, a place we’ve known since childhood. Isn’t “a long time ago” just another way of saying “once upon a time”? Yes, it is, so we know where we are now. We are in a fairy tale, a myth.
The familiarity of fairy tales sets us at ease and sets our expectations in place. Expectations which Star Wars meets with flying colors: A farmboy who must become a knight. A princess imploring for aide. A mystical wise-old-man mentor. Sword fights between good and evil. A magic that operates like religion. A dark lord and a dark side. Star Wars was built upon something we already know, something timeless, something we’ve always enjoyed.
And once those well-known expectations were set, Star Wars was free to add the unexpected and create one of those most memorable story worlds ever. Think of a story you love, and you’ll probably be able to identify the something-already-known aspect of it.
How about Harry Potter?
When we hear “boarding school”, mental images and probabilities are instantly conjured in our minds. We picture classrooms, dormitories, a campus with very old buildings, kids in uniforms, a giant place for meals, living through a schoolyear with a bunch of kids your age, etc. Even if we don’t know much about boarding school, we all know what regular school is like (even us homeschoolers over here *waves*) and our expectations for that are nearly identical from person to person.
So what does this prove?
It proves that one half of your story’s concept must be grounded in something we already know, and know well. These are the expectations you are going to establish for your reader, before the second element of your concept upends everything and creates something wholly unique.
You need FAMILIARITY. You need to ground your concept in something WELL-KNOWN. Only then will you be able to create something ORIGINAL.
Where can familiarity be found?
1. Genre Conventions
3. Well-known stories
The possibilities are not limited to these categories, of course. Familiar subjects can be found within many other areas. However, Familiar elements seem to share certain qualities …
⦁ Provides a rough timeline
⦁ Conjures imagery
⦁ Sets expectations for events, characters, opposition, etc
⦁ Has natural potential for conflict
⦁ Serves as a goal-oriented backdrop for the plot
To see how this works, let’s look at Harry Potter again:
Familiarity: Going to boarding school. (An occupation)
Timeline: A school year (which Voldy always lets Harry complete before trying to kill him again, bless him.)
Story Expectations: When we hear “school”, we know what we’re going to get.
Imagery: Boarding school conjures tons of possibilities.
Conflict Potential: It’s a thousand kids living in one castle with a handful of adults – there’s going to be conflict.
Goal-Oriented: School is inherently goal directed. You want to graduate. And in the case of boarding school, you want to win the house cup.
But of course, this familiar environment is only HALF of the concept for Harry Potter. The other half, of course, is WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY. Which brings us to the 2nd element of a successful story concept, which will be the subject of the next post.
I can’t believe those parents from that daddyofive channel are straight up blaming Phil for all the flack they’re getting???
Nobody is reacting the way they are to them because of what Phil said. He didn’t have to say anything, the clips from their own channel spoke for themselves. All Phil did was see kids potentially in danger and blew the whistle on it. What kind of person would he be to look away from children in need?
They’re claiming the videos are fake, which I don’t buy, but even if they faked the videos, I don’t understand what kind of reaction they expected? How do you put up videos of you yelling at, cussing at, and man handling your kids and not expect someone to try to jump in and defend those kids? It’s already fucking wild to me that it went on so long before someone finally said something.
Fake or not, you sat there and filmed, edited, and posted these videos, not seeing anything wrong with the content, and that’s still a huge fucking problem. It was aggressive, abusive, disturbing, and not in the least bit funny. You can’t just be like “but they’re for entertainment!” and be absolved of everything. The fact that they think that’s entertainment in and of itself is concerning to me.
Whatever, I dunno, I just thinking blaming someone else for being genuinely scared for your children instead of stepping back and being able to understand what you did wrong is a cop out.
The Way He Looks (gaston/lefou) Early Days, Pre-Wartime, First Kiss, Gaston loves LeFou’s hair ▪ read on ao3
Tentatively, LeFou risked looking up at him again. Gaston was looking out the window now, certainly dreaming of his next, successful hunt in the vast plains of the land. These were perhaps LeFou’s favourite moments; when they stopped to make camp in the forest or under the stars—and when they found peace here, at home, and he could watch Gaston bathe in the sunlight.
Imagine Shikadai being naturally intelligent, just like Shikamaru, at practically everything.
Imagine Shikadai being also socially intelligent, as Temari’s been teaching him the basic concept of diplomacy and politics since he was a kid. (And Shikadai being Shikadai, obviously enjoy that shit because he can understand things easily, which makes learning super fun for him)
Imagine Shikamaru teaching Shikadai his shadow jutsu.
Imagine Temari teaching Shikadai her wind jutsu. (Big-ass fan optional, but preferable)
Imagine Shikamaru and Shikadai bonding over shogi.
Imagine Temari discussing strategy with Shikadai after the shogi match, reviewing every move that Shikadai made, every mistake, and thinking up ways Shikadai could avoid making certain moves so he can finally win over Shikamaru.
Now imagine that kid grown up. He’s going to be the most terrifying, smartest kid in all the Shinobi world.
Today a student asked if I had an iPhone charger, and I held up my frayed, shitty one that I keep in my classroom as a back up for my own phone. It only works about half the time so I just told her that it doesn’t work, sorry.
Without missing a beat, another student looked at my frayed, shitty iPhone charger and said, “Teacher salary be like” and I fucking lost it.
full offense but me explaining to my potential beautiful kid that strangers hate their mommy (me) simply for loving their other mommy (my wife) would be far more damaging than you, telling your ugly goblin that sometimes there are children with two moms, could ever be
Let’s be real, Kristian Kostov deserved to win the Eurovision more than everyone. I understand that some people like Salvador’s song, but I bet my life that he wouldn’t have won if the pity card wasn’t played. The guy has heart problems, we get it, but it shouldn’t be the reason why some people voted for him. It’s the same reason why I was so angry at russians for sending that girl. Yes, he has a good voice, but the song isn’t that ineresting, just plain boring. Bulgaria’s entry on the other hand, even though the song was in english, was practically ideal. The deep lyrical content had an exceptional powerful bond with the melody to the point where not only the lyrics have meaning behind them, but the general melody can make you think about the world we live today. The way each of the song’s elements interacts with one another and the meaning behind the song it’s astonishing. All that without taking into consideration Kristian’s voice, which let me tell you, is the ideal mix of hardness and softness, like water that at the surface is serene and calm, but holds the hidden power and potential. Honestly, that kid (Why do I keep calling him kid? I’m a year younger than him!) doesn’t get enough credit. Beautiful Mess is a hard song, I wouldn’t be surprised if half of the contestants would have trouble get the technical part down, forget about the emotional background! But Kris not only sang it nearly perfect, he put enough emotion in his song that it honestly tore through all of my defenses. Thanks to it I realised that being a grey aromantic isn’t that bad, that not everything comes down to romantic love, that not being able to fall in love practically at all doesn’t make me a monster. This song, this wonderful human being, pushed me hard enough to make the first step to accepting myself and that’s the reason why Kristian Kostov should’ve won and actually won my heart over.
The kuromama murder scene always made me think of Chnyan and her mother being murdered. Whats going through kurogane's mind when she states she wants revenge and when she resolves to not kill him.
That is such a very good parallel!
It’d be so much more fascinating if Kurogane had been present for that final scene in Koryo. But then again, maybe this is exactly why he wasn’t there when Chu’nyan finally confront’s her mother’s murderer. Because we all know what that did to Kurogane.
But even so, if given the chance I feel like the closure these two might have found in each other would have been amazing.
The thing that makes me so sad about GinnyxLuna is that they could have been so happy. Their personalities compliment each other and they go together so well. They should have been able to be together and in love and happy for the rest of their lives. But the HP canon is so heteronormative that we’re left with small fanon headcanons