By Megan Burkhart
We’ve all heard it. Accepted it. The number of original (or basic) story plots can be counted on our two hands. It has all been said and done before.
Or has it?
Originality often seems to constrict us writers rather than free us. Many of us have had doubts about our creations.
Is my book unique/different from those on the shelves at bookstores?
Am I saying anything of value to my reader?
At the heart of these two questions lies the answer to originality. It’s not primarily about content, but the meaning of the content. For all the millennials out there, think about texting. Words are empty until the receiver gleans meaning from them. Millions of people text “Hi, how are you?” in a single day, but each and every one of those texts means something different to the receiver. It can be a genuine greeting between two friends. It can be a cold and distant greeting between a fighting couple. It can be an aching outreach to someone not spoken to in years. It can be whatever the receiver interprets it as.
The receiver plays the same role as our readers. As writers, our job is to craft a beautiful story that leaves the reader with something of meaning, something for him or her to interpret.
That is originality.
Not the fact that your quest features trolls instead of dragons. Not the fact that your love triangle is actually a love quadrangle. These things fall under the category of plot. Plot is the events of your story–what gets your characters from point A to point B. Originality does not come from the plot itself, but in the message that drives the plot. Your message comes from your own head, and no one has a mind exactly like yours.
Think about the things that matter to you. What are you passionate about? That’s your seed. Take it and cultivate it. Don’t let comparisons hinder you.
Remember Miriam and Moses in Exodus? God chose Moses as His agent of change for the Israelite people suffering under Egyptian rule. Moses lead his people to freedom, which, as God planned it, happened to include wandering in the desert for forty years. After the awe of God defeating the Egyptians at the Red Sea wore off, Miriam started to get jealous. She thought she could do things better than Moses. When she challenged her brother, God struck her with leprosy. Is that a wake-up call or what?
Be content with where God has placed you and with what role He has given you. Stay true to the message He has given you. He is the author of originality, and the only one we should mimic in our efforts to spread His love to a world in need.