We’ve all been there: trapped on an elevator, stuck at a family dinner, or held captive on a long road trip — hearing the same story we’ve already heard twenty times before. We might laugh at all the right places but our heart is never in it.
We can hope that the stories we write aren’t like that, but they kinda are. Just a few hours on TV Tropes will have you realizing that every twist has already been done. The Simpsons did It. South Park did It. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy. As James SA Corey tweeted:
When I read, "fiction property X was just ripping off fiction property Y!" I laugh because we're all just ripping off the Epic of Gilgamesh and Virgil. The only question is how many iterations deep the theft is.
— James S.A. Corey (@JamesSACorey) May 20, 2018
And that’s OK.
Recently I read Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. At the very beginning of the book, Justina mentions how the story was partly inspired by Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. She questioned the plausibility of genteel society fighting zombies, when it was far more likely they would send servants, and other people they viewed as disposable, to fight their battles for them. That question/thesis inspired an entire novel. Justina Ireland had her own spin on the trope, and she applied it skillfully.
Stories change with every retelling. They get louder, bigger, and a little more ludicrous. The story that you’re working on has been told, but it hasn’t been told by you. You have your own twist and style to apply.
There’s nothing worse than hearing the same story over and over and over again. Unless you’re adding your original spin.
Featured image: Public Domain Pictures