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Originality is the Key


Author News Advice Blog 1 Nov 20 by Lorenzo Samuel, author of speculative fiction writings.

In the last (1 Jul 20 issue) "Author News" advice blog, I discussed why quantity is so important and takes precedence over the quality of writing. For this issue of the blog I will go over how a piece of fiction writing might be judged in contests or for publication. Emphasis will be on originality.

Here is what one judge looks for in a story: 1) is the story idea original? 2) is the plot enthralling? 3) is the author’s style superior? 4) does the story have emotional impact? 5) is the story memorable?

“Original” is inventing or creating something new and fresh. Fortunately, originality is possible if one subscribes to the theory that ideas are ubiquitous and of infinite variety. Ideas are the driver for new businesses, new ways of doing things, technical developments, paintings, music and literature, among others. Without new ideas to fuel human progress, our culture would stagnate, even die.

Authors are often asked, where do you get your ideas? Answers to the question cover a range: from this person I know; sitting on my back steps when I saw this possum trying to climb out on a small limb; a flower bent over by the wind; clouds scudding across the sky; from reading a news story; from some object. Get the thought? Where the ideas come from are as varied as the people who think, notice, observe, read.

The good news is that you can train yourself to have them. Ask, what does this remind me of? Inquire. Imagine.

One famous author advised budding writers to think of something that would be impossible, then work that idea into a story. That would is a jar to imaginative thinking.

Think of an unusual use for a common object. Another jar. Do you see that waste basket across the room? Apparently, its use is to collect trash. Could it serve as a hat or helmet? How about a shield or weapon? The central feature in a piece of modern sculpture? A grave for a small animal? A container for coffee? A decrepit item in an otherwise immaculate room? A storage bin for discarded fingers? The ideas for its use are endless.

Have you ever played the cloud-watching game? What does that one cloud remind you of? A puppy? A snake? Your first kiss? Muscles?

Another method – take something common and make it uncommon or out of place. When he hums this tune, he is thinking of killing you. She ran the stoplight hoping to hit someone.

You might get the idea that something must be odd to work. Not so. A particular arrangement of books is the clue that leads to what he does when nobody is looking. When she wears a certain dress, she remembers her best friend forever.

Another game can generate original ideas. Start with a common thing. What does it make you think of? What does that make you think of? And that? And that? Continue until you hit something that rings a bell. Maybe that will be your noteworthy idea.

Original ideas come from you. They are in your mind ready to be mined. Above are simply some tricks for getting at them. Get that shovel out from the garage. Start digging.

In the next issue of Author’s News, I will take up, is the plot enthralling?

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