I’m finding the “walkthrough” feature of the writing career development course I’m doing extremely useful and enlightening, in particular the student “Hotseats” where a student of the course gets to brainstorm through a particular problem they are having. Recently someone had the exact same issue I’ve faced multiple times: you’ve got a great idea for a story – perhaps you’ve even started writing it – and then, whaddya know, you read someone else’s book, or watch a movie or TV show, and there’s your story smirking back at you.
I’m convinced my so-called muse got fed up with me a few years ago and packed up and astro-travelled to Hollywood where she’s happily providing the scriptwriters of the StarGate shows with all my ideas. I’ve scrapped a good half-dozen ideas after seeing them realised on that franchise.
Now I know I needn’t have hit delete after all. As disconcerting as it is to discover that other writers have a similar thought process to you, it’s important to realise that almost all of our ideas are derivative. There are only
thirty-three thirty-seven dramatic plot strand definitions around which a plot-based story can be constructed.
The solution to the dilemma of writing something that turns out to be similar to another story that you may not even have read or know about is characterisation. It is your characters who make your story unique. Give your characters strong, convincing motivations and allow your plot to move fluidly based on the actions of the characters. It is your unique perspective that shapes your characters (even if they’re nothing like you) and therefore your story will be unique if you put character first and plot second.
Luckily I saved some of my favourite characters from the stories I scrapped and found a new story for them to drive. But going forward I’ll be less inclined to panic and delete when I discover someone else has already used my idea.
How about you? Can this course help you? Are you caught up in the mire of writing a novel? Frustrated by the blinking cursor? Depressed by your blank pages, soggy plot, or characters who've gone on strike?
This course has been developed by an established novelist who has taught thousands of writers a unique, systematic, repeatable method for creating not just fiction, but really good, rich, deep, meaningful fiction. It is a 32-week online writing course.
I'm a student of How to Think Sideways, and while some of these methods don't resonate with me, many ideas have helped me, as I've mentioned. I think the information covered is well worth the cost of the course.
You can click here to go find out more or join the class. This is an affiliate link and you'll be helping me if you buy through my link. (If you prefer not to give me credit for the referral, that's fine too; you can knock my name off the link.)