“Original”

It’s the adjective every artist is gunning for, right? 

2.         a. Not derived from something else; fresh and unusual.

             b. Showing a marked departure from previous practice; new.

3. Productive of new things or new ideas; inventive.

            Of course, as the wisest man on earth once said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, New International Version)

            Correct, as usual, King Solomon. The sooner we artists accept this fact, the less disillusioned we’ll be: It’s all been done before. …but not necessarily just like that.

            Take, for example, a movie remake – say, BBC’sThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” versus Disney’s production of the same name. Same name, same story, based on the same book… and yet it’s not the same. The different writers behind the screenplays created different scripts. The different directors instructed the different actors to play the scenes this way or that. The costumes, the sets, the music, the technological techniques… all subtly or completely different. And naturally, turning away from the movie to read the book by C.S. Lewis would be an entirely different experience, too. But even within the same medium – comparing movie to movie – the dissimilarity is manifest.

            And that’s when the idea is to depict the same story. What happens when a story serves not as a pattern to follow, but simply a first spark of inspiration? Suppose a storyteller’s starting point is the tale of Sleeping Beauty. You’ve got the good and bad fairies, a nearly-lethal spinning wheel, a hundred-year sleep, a rise-and-shine kiss… You could use all of these elements, or pick and choose.

            Your story could consist of the journal entries of a fairy who’s fed-up with being overlooked for party invitations, and she swears, if that happens just one more time

            Your story could follow a century-worth of dangerous dreams that the comatose princess’s subconscious mind must brave in order to achieve her awakening.

            Your story could stick to the familiar formula right up until the kiss, when it then turns out that the prince has been enchanted into a beast and only broke the princess’s curse so that she could hopefully return the favor before the clock strikes midnight.

            You could end up with anything. You could end up with Book Two of “The Wilderhark Tales”. The variations are endless, and that’s where originality comes in.

            It’s up to the artist – be he or she author, filmmaker, painter, minstrel, or whatever else – to select from the teetering pile of age-old elements that have been used over and over under the sun, and recombine them into something wonderfully new. And we’ve all of us got a bit of a head start, there, too, because the one element available to each of us that none of the other artists have is… our own original selves.

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8 thoughts on ““Original”

  1. All very true! Even our original ideas have to come from somewhere. In fact, magazines usually look for hot topics with a fresh twist. They don’t necessarily want something brand new. Something that original probably wouldn’t have much of an audience anyway.
    I just had a big sale, and my sister-in-law brought in a bunch of paranormal romance novels to sell. A bunch – maybe 40 or 50 of them. When people go shopping for novels, they look for an element that they know will entertain them.

  2. I’m a writer and sometimes, I agree, I get my inspiration from an idea spun from something else. But there are other times that an idea just springs forth, and I don’t even realize where it came from. My Muse often inspires me. He’s a troll that lives in my closet. (Somewhat like Christopher Pike’s Muse).

    What I’m getting at, is that not every inspiration comes from something else. Often times, at least with me, inspiration just… happens. It doesn’t necessarily have to come from something else.

    Danielle, you are an amazing writer with an incredible talent. I love reading whatever you post.

    • ‘Tis true that inspiration can pop up seemingly out of the blue. (I’m still not entirely sure where Gant-o’-the-Lute came from… I had an opening for a bit-part minstel, he showed up, said, “Bit-part? Ha!”, and went on to inspire more than I can rightly keep track of!)
      As often as not, we’ll not consciously base our work on anything. A long-ago memory, a half-noted impression, a trail of What Ifs sparked by a throwaway word … stir briskly and let simmer on the back burner of your mind indefinitely, until wha-BAM! Inspiration! Serve warm. Or chilled. Whichever your closet troll dictates. (:
      And now I pause to duck my head and smile at your encouraging words. Many thanks, Matissa.

  3. Your thoughts could be the first class of a “You Too Can Be A Writer” class. And I would subtitle it: “I Think, Therefore I Write.” That’s because, just as you describe, we read or see something, our mind questions or envisions, a seed takes root, then we grab for pencil and paper. We chronicle the journey our mind takes on its personal and private tangent then end up in the land of “Original.” See you there!

  4. Danielle–I was wondering what your first name was! I felt funny calling you Deshipley, heh. Now I know. 🙂

    It’s good to be reminded of the various ways “original” can be interpreted. It can be easy to use that term to distance yourself from “other”, less “original” work without acknowledging sources of inspiration. Some things may come to writers seemingly out of the blue, though I think many ideas are recycled or are a reimagination of our experiences and things we’ve come across.

    I think one good way to have one’s work be perceived as original, though, is to take something familiar and approach it from an unexplored angle. And also, as you said, trying out new combinations of things that don’t seem to go together at first.

    Sometimes all you need is a fresh perspective to shake things up!

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