I want to share something that I have recently been thinking about. A time when my muse was young and we were still only acquaintances. When I mistrusted her and myself.
I can recall the first time I realized how similar one of my stories was to another.
It was heartache.
To see such a similar and familiar story told in a more engaging and well-written way was enough to make me want to quit. I have no original ideas, I thought. I am a fake. I am a thief. There is no story inside me that has not been told before.
Sad thoughts, indeed.
But a writer friend told me this:
“There is nothing new under the sun. But what is new is your perspective. Who cares if you’ve taken the best parts of another story, even unintentionally. Make it your own.”
I held fast to those words and started to pick apart the similarities and differences and soon found two separate, standalone stories. I’ve not looked back at those negative thoughts since.
The words of my friend were reassured when I came across a writing exercise. I urge any writer who is struggling with their authenticity to give it a try. I call it the Story Spin.
- Pick a story. Any story.
Got it? Good.
I’ve picked Inside Out. If you don’t know Inside Out, it is about a young girl, Riley, who moves out of state and the story follows her emotions and their reactions to said move. It is a touching and educational story and if you have kids, it is a great one for family movie night.
- Now, pick a moment in the story.
I’ve picked the moment where Riley is talking to a friend from her previous hometown. As she’s talking, she gets frustrated with her friend for mentioning a new girl on their hockey team. Riley ends the conversation abruptly and shuts the laptop from which she was video chatting.
- Now, make it your own.
Spin it, retell it. Jump through the screen and tell the story from her friends perspective. How did she feel when Riley ended their conversation. How is she coping with losing her friend? Maybe the laptop doesn’t disconnect and she overhears what Riley says about the whole ordeal. What if Riley’s friend is glad she moved away? Create this scenario with different characters, in a different world.
Tell the story the way you want. Don’t worry that it may resemble someone else’s. You cannot steal what is your own imaginings, and no one can duplicate them either. (Unless they are plagiarizing which is a big no, no!) Tell it the best you can and see where it takes you. What you will find is not something stolen or ‘done before’. You will have something unique. You will make it your own.
If you ever start to feel that your muse is giving you regurgitated material, try this exercise. You may find yourself pleased with the outcome and stumble upon a newfound appreciation for your imagination and muse.
Hope someone, somewhere found this useful. And if you try the exercise, please let me know. I would love to read your story spin.