Story Ideas: How to Create something Unique

As I talked about in the previous post, I made the assertion that all ideas have been done before and the same plots exist in many different movies and books. I used the example of the Avatar Movie and how the basic plots of it are the same as the story of Pocahontas and Dances with Wolves.

But that is not the important part of those movies. What makes those stories work so well is not how they are all the same, but how they are all different. Each of the authors took the same basic concept and went in a different direction.

Some of the areas that were different were the settings, from the American West to the New World to the planet of Pandora. They also took similar, but different methods of who the protagonist is and who the bad guys are.

Those are how each of the stories is interesting and not a carbon copy of the others.

How do the authors think up ideas?

First, I don’t know how the individual authors came up with their ideas. However, I am sure they didn’t intentionally take the Pocahontas idea and set it in the future. From talking to many different authors, most of them don’t deliberately seek to write a story written by others. They all want to write something initially theirs.

Second, each author has a different way of coming up with his basic story ideas. If you ask a thousand authors, you will come up with a thousand different ways of coming up with story ideas. Hell, each story idea that I come up with comes a different way.

Different ways to generate ideas.

Many authors read newspapers looking for stories. Sometimes finding a news article about an event will trigger an idea for a story. Others go to bars or coffee shops. Eavesdropping on a conversation will come up with a story. I have come up with a story idea through reading books, historical events, news, local events, and many others. I have come up with stories from many different activities and places.

The idea is to not set your mind in stone about how to get the basic story idea. Also not to discard a primary story idea cause it is unoriginal. I proved in the previous post that no basic idea is original. Take the basic idea as they come. Write it down, it may be made out of pure gold.

There is a caveat, the best story ideas are where the author takes two or more unoriginal story ideas and melds them together uniquely and originally. Like Pokemon and the Lost Roman Legion.

Just the Beginning

What many beginning authors forget are the ideas that they ‘stole’ are only the first step. Like Jim Butcher taking Pokemon and the Lost Roman Legion to use in a story. To come up with an original story, it is the next step that is important. When a basic story idea is selected, there is still the rest of the story to be developed.

Once you have your basic ideas, it is time to start asking questions. Some authors do a mind map at this point, or they write out a questionnaire. Each author has a different method to flesh out their idea. For me, I do a questionnaire.

I write the idea down and start asking questions. I have a book that I am currently writing about a MechWarrior. By asking questions like how were the mechs built? Where are they? What type of society has mechs?

By asking those questions to be answered, you get more questions. After those questions get answered- you get the point.

This is where the uniqueness of the story comes out. This is where the author melds and mixes ideas together to create gold. This is the stage that the reader sees and claims that the author is a genius.

In the next week’s post, I will go over specific strategies on different ways for you to take your writing to the next level.

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