Posts Tagged ‘original’

A few days ago I came across a post asking the question “What is it with people and vampires?  Is it because of the Twilight series?”.  Since the vampire series made it big I have seen an influx of new stories where vampires are the central characters or theme.  Even I have started a book where vampires play a role.  I even put the first half of the first chapter up for review and have had a few people tell me they are all vampired out.  So what should I do?  Should I cut out the vampire?  I struggle with this because the vampire is so identifiable and, at least in my mind, the opposite of, or more sinister counterpart, of an Angel which my story also contains.  Perhaps I’ll wait then for the genre to cool down, but as a whole, my story contains many creatures.  Some I have pulled from mythology and others have come straight from my own mind.  Neither is easy to write about and rules have to be made and applied.  So tell me.  Is it better to make up your own creatures?  Are people who use the familiar only being lazy?  Personally I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other, but this is where the line of thinking in the discussion went.  The person who asked about the ‘sudden explosion of vampires’ in literature today then proceeded to claim that authors who use the familiar are lazy and unoriginal.  The example used to back up the argument was Harry Potter, which intrigued me on many levels to say the least.  Still, I stopped and wondered about my own work.  Was I using the familiar to get away from truly producing something fresh and original?  Was I holding onto my vampire because it saved me from forming another creature that wasn’t as clear in my head?  I thought about this long and hard and in the end I found my answer.  

First, neither one is better.  Just because I completely made up a new creature does not mean it’s better than the creatures that are already more well known. 

Second, It does not make me a better writer.  In fact it could make my writing worse.  For every new creation the writer has to stop and explain what the thing looks like.   It’s characteristics and it’s abilities all need to be addressed.  This can really slow down a piece.  If every fantasy novel had to introduce every creature in meticulous detail it would bore the reader.  And in the end, the reader may not have a grasp of what the creature really looks like or is.

Third, the writer needs to understand their own story.  I’m writing a story about two immortals who fall love, but I have many underlying themes and subplots.  One of them has to do with what a vampire and an angel symbolize in our culture.  I could form my own creatures and give them the traits I want to bring out in my characters, but would the symbolism and message be as strong?     

Of course making up your own creatures has its advantages.  The author can create anything, the only limit is their own imagination and from this many story ideas can emerge.  The author just needs to remember what story they are telling and decided for themselves if an original creature is best or one that has been used many times.

Ultimately J.K. Rowling mixed the familiar with the unfamiliar well.  Harry, the dragons and goblins gave the reader something to grab and hold onto when she introduced other things like the boggart and the skrewt.  But either way, in the end what matters isn’t whether the creatures themselves were original or even the themes.  What matters is the originality of the story itself and what the reader can pull from it.  Every author has a unique outlook on life, even if some of their views overlap it doesn’t mean they are any less of an individual.  The same is true for creatures.  I can make them up or research them.  In the end if the story I tell isn’t my own then I have failed.  Just because I made up a whole new cast of characters doesn’t mean I can retell Harry Potter.


Read Full Post »