Monday, August 30, 2010

O is for Originality

What does it mean to be truly original? The Dictionary defines Original as
2. new; fresh; inventive; novel
3. arising or proceeding independently of anything else
5. created, undertaken, or presented for the first time
10. a person whose ways of thinking or acting are original
But is that even possible anymore?

As I touched on in my Inspiration post, we get our ideas from past knowledge/experiences. If we don't get our ideas out of thin air, can we produce something new/fresh/original? Have our ideas been thought before? Has anyone put these four notes together before? These three words?

Okay, obviously not every idea has been thought before, and no one has a copyright on any one word or short series of words (barring, of course, "See Spot run"). And even then, it's perfectly okay to borrow these words and use them in a different context, a different genre, a different style.

One's style, one's voice is all their own. One person may be completely OCD about grammar rules, while another takes them only under advisement. You might prefer the first person narrative, or the third, or even the second. And then there's vocabulary, which not only has to fit your characters but your audience. 5th graders don't want to be reading about glaucoma or systemic civilization declines, just as college grads probably want more stimulation than "Mr. Kangaroo hopped happily to the store".

Just as each person experiences things from a slightly different vantage point, so too can a story be told from one. There are millions of unique tellings of historical events, depending on what each person saw at their location.

And then we have parodies, which take an idea or a story and turn it completely on its head. Nightlight, which parodied Twilight, was a major hit because of its 'fresh take' on the phenomena. The recent monster-mashup, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, was a completely innovative idea that spawned a landslide of new works.

Of course, one of the struggles I hope I'm not alone on is the thought, "If I've never seen anything like this...does that mean it's a flop of an idea?" I think it's healthy to keep a little perspective in your thoughts, and really look at an idea before presenting it to the world. Then again, too much pessimism and self-control and we might never get any new ideas!

So, any original ideas you've been toying with recently?

A Couple O Books I've Read:

An Oregonian O Group:

The O Font: