Sometimes it starts to feel like all we see is the same old story told over and over again. Or the stories we read are all about the same people, or at least an archetype of that person.
You’re not wrong if you’ve felt this way: after all, every story that’s written has in some form or another been written before. Yet what many don’t realize is that this is actually a good thing. It’s a springboard. We can look at an old story and dissect it. What are its strengths? What are its weaknesses? What can we do different? What element can we focus on that hasn’t been focused on recently, or ever before?
At their core, all stories are the same. It’s the unique elements we choose to highlight that make them different from one another.
There’s this belief that only certain stories are worth telling. Bottom-to-top success stories, or unlikely hero stories, or stories about things already well-established people have done to make them even more awesome than they already are. Those stories are fine and they make us feel good. But aren’t we forgetting something?
Aren’t we forgetting that every single person has a unique story to tell? Maybe on the surface everyone’s story seems to fit into a general category of stories already told, but that’s because not everyone bothers to dig deeper. A story isn’t about telling an audience a beginning and an end. It’s about giving a completely new perspective on the journey a person takes from point A to point B, or the journey they are continuously on, and will be for the rest of their lives.
As a writer, it’s your job to find the uniqueness in every single story. Even fiction writers are responsible for putting a new spin on every idea, giving it unique features so that it sets itself apart above the rest. It’s not about research, it’s not about exaggerating the truth, it’s about finding the angle least often found. It’s about finding that one thing that makes someone’s story different, and creating something completely new out of it.
Pay close attention to those stories you assume everyone has heard before. Pay attention to people and places and fictional characters you don’t initially think are all that interesting. There is something special lingering beneath the surface. A good writer, a great storyteller, will find it. They will use it as their focal point. And they will create something truly amazing from what others never even knew was there.
Image courtesy of Abhi Sharma/flickr.com.