One of the things we’ve talked about in class is being original, but similar enough in genre and content to famous books that you can say, “Well, my book is like so-and-sos book.” but not have it be identical. This is a process I’ve been puzzling out since I first started writing, so here are some of my influences and what my stories (including the one I’m working on for this class) are like and how I’ve tried to make them original.
When I first started writing my books I was reading the Redwall series by Brian Jacques and the Warriors series by Erin Hunter. Both of these very heavily influenced my first and second books, and indeed, I shamelessly took ideas from both serieses. By my third and fourth books I was trying to make the similarities subtler, and adding much more of my own flair. In my first two books it was almost like I combined Redwall and Warriors by having a castle inhabited by animals and a story that focused on warrior cats. Yet even then I added my own elements, wolves as the antagonists, for one thing, as well as some definite Christian themes.
The Christian themes idea I got from The Chronicles of Narnia. Unsurprisingly, my thirteen-year-old self did not handle them as well as C.S. Lewis. These ideas also became buried more deeply in the story, and expressed in my own ways as I wrote my latter books, mostly in the form of redemption arcs and the personal growth of my characters and how these tied into the story.
The old saying really is true, that the more you read and write, the better writer you’ll be. I read all these books and many more and absorbed their themes, their workings, things I liked and disliked about them, what parts of them worked and which parts just got boring, and I twisted them and stuck them into my own writing in my own way. My books are by no means totally unique, but they are different from other books, they are not copies of anything; and the more I worldbuild, the more I develop my characters, and the more I write the more original I become.
So if you start out writing short stories or a novel and it turns out they’re strikingly similar to a book series you’ve read, don’t be discouraged. Think about how you can add your own ideas into the story, what you want to write, to convey to the reader. For, as C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”