Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Brainstorming, Writing, Genre Fiction, and "It's All Been Done Before"

I am looking for advice. In an attempt to diversify my craft, which has largely settled in general (erotic - occasionally) fiction, I am trying to alter my process. However, one of my largest hurdles is originality. My brain has been turned heavily into an analytic factory because of my continued exposure to the curse of academic research and writing. When I try and come up with an idea, my mind jumps to something that has already been done. Once that occurs, any concept I had going gets gobbled up by what has already been written.

We live in a culture that thrives on rehashing, rewriting, remaking previous work. People dismiss Hunger Games as a lesser Battle Royale. We have 10 Things I Hate About You, Kiss Me Kate, and Taming of the Shrew. At my level in academic research, I need to be original in order to get into conferences and publications. Rehashing what’s been said would compromise future positions as I am trying to move from my completed MA into a Ph.D program.

Another part of my particular problem is how I have been writing. All of my recent work has been short stories from a fairly simple conglomeration of words or concepts. My story in Fang 6 started as an exploratory realization of Foucault’s repressive hypothesis. My weakness is writing from a definitive plot formation. Currently, I’m trying to expand a story that was too long to be a short story and too vague to be a novella, but I’m struggling to expand the original plot into a story that matches the intended novel length. The trouble with developing a story from a plot is the return to my issue with originality.

Going into writing speculative fiction, fantasy, and other forms of genre fiction, how do you all escape the shade of unoriginal to produce stories featured in Inhuman Acts, Abandoned Places, Dungeon Grind, Pulp, and other recent genre focused novels and anthology?

Might return to edit this later if I need to. Running out of battery at Starbucks.

T.S. Eliot wrote this, and it applies to any stripe of writer, poetry or not:

One of the surest of tests is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.

Read. Steal. But the difference between borrowing and stealing is in stealing you make something your own. Filing off the serial numbers is a start, but go further. Shape it differently. Give it context. Create the pedestal upon which it will stand.

One of the surest ways I branch out in this regard is reflecting back on stories I’ve read that didn’t wholly satisfy me, and asking myself: “What could I do with this plot, or premise, that would scratch the itch I’m feeling? What would fill that void?”

Then I write that.

I second Bahumat’s advice.

Technology and culture are constantly changing. This means that the context for art today is different than 10, 100, or 1000 years ago. There are different things to be said and different ways to say them to different people. This is especially true for science fiction, but I think it applies to many other kinds of fiction as well. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was an important book, not because it was well written, but because it was timely.

I agree with what’s been said about reshaping, reclaiming, and adding unique elements to make an archetypal story your own. If you think about it, even celebrated writers like J. R. R. Tolkien and George Lucas borrowed HEAVILY from classic literature and mythologies. In some respects, you could almost argue that the Lord of the Rings series and the Star Wars movies tell the “same story”. But they don’t. These different writers may have both used mythological themes as their base, yet they created completely different worlds, completely different casts of characters, completely different tales for people to love. They each had their own interpretations of the material they synthesized, and took a different spin on a basically similar plot.

As for how you can make things your own, I’d suggest paying attention to and thinking about your own life and experiences, the things that inspire, enrage, terrify, delight, and move YOU. Bring your own perspective, your own imagery, your own voice to the universal themes that other writers write about. Think about what you treasure in life, or how you wish the world would change. Become a detailed observer of yourself and those around you. Reflect on what you’ve seen, learn from it, and incorporate it into your stories.

My two cents. Sorry if it’s a little long-winded.