|orangeacid (photo on Flickr.com)
"XXXXXX's novel (that is already published) is almost exactly like mine. My fiance says that this happens all the time. There are no unique stories. But I'm wondering if all this work I've been doing for years is wasted now. He says it's about my characters more than my plot, but I don't know. What do you think?"
Her distress is completely understandable, but her fiance was exactly correct, and that's what I said. I'm not sure if it's true that there are NO unique stories. But there are a lot of similar story types and tropes, and as I've said on here before, readers love tropes. For example, readers of romance novels want a happy ending. If they like "opposites attract" romance books, then they'll want to see a lot of conflict between the two opposite love interests and then a spark that ignites a love story eventually.
In fantasy, there's often a "chosen one" (CO) and a mentor who sends this chosen one on a quest because the CO is the only one who can fight the antagonist and save the world. Right, Harry Potter?
Some people make it this simple. Stories will fit into types, such as:
- Man vs. Man
- Man vs. Nature
- Man vs. Himself
- Man vs. God
The literary world asks for comps--titles that are similar to the novel you're working on, so agents/editors/booksellers know how your book will fit in the market. You've probably heard writers say something like, "My book is a cross between A Wrinkle in Time and The Series of Unfortunate Events."
So, if you ever find yourself in the same position as my student was in--never fear. This is normal. If you know you aren't copying or plagiarizing or stealing someone's idea, then you aren't. You just probably love the genre as much as this fellow author did, and you probably read some of the same books at some point for inspiration. But your writing--your voice, your word choice, your character development--that will make the story your own!
Has this ever happened to you?
Margo L. Dill is a writing teacher and coach. Her next novel writing course for WOW! starts on Friday, November 5. There's still room left. Check it out here.