In the comments on the "10 things" entry a couple of days ago, JScott said:
I envy people who can write and just seem to flow effortlessly across pages. I read anything I can get my hands on.. How does one keep from plagarizing due to reading SOOOO many books. How does one stay original? I imagine that it can be hard..
It's an extremely good point. If we read really good work which resonates with us as a writer, we want to dissect it, analyze it, learn from it, and figure out how whatever it was we admired could be put to use in our own writing. That is, frankly, how you learn to be a writer -- read very good work and learn from it. So how do you keep from plagairizing it?
Here are two mini examples. Each of these could easily be a whole book, so I'm just touching on the highlights here.
Character = story. Who your character is, what they need, what they want, what their obstacles are, what's at stake, what is painful for them, what makes them happy, how they grew up, who hurt them, who helped them, what they fear, what they're ashamed of, what they'll do under pressure, what is their core moral center... are all things which make your story unique. When you do the homework on the character, when you really know them, their choices (how they speak, how they act, how they choose, how they dress, etc.) will be unique to them. They're simply not going to do something identically to someone else in another book. Fill your story with well-developed characters that come from your own hard work, your own imagination and perception of their world, and you very likely won't inadvertently emulate another author.
When you're choosing the method of telling the story, you're going to have to choose the type of point of view you want to use, the tone, and the perspective. Every one of those choices will affect presentation of the matererial, particularly as the story is filtered through the character's eyes / thoughts. A rapper is not going to perceive the world the same way as a wealthy, elderly widow. A poor person is not going to comment or think or notice the same things in the same manner as a tycoon. A truck driver will have different life experiences that informs his perceptions from those of a pastry chef. When you've created a unique character and you've chosen the method of the story (first, third, omnipotent), your method will be used by the characters.
If you have, for example, two characters telling the story equally, then each section should have a voice -- a perspective of that person and their life. That will influence what they see in the world around them, what stands out as important imagery to comment on (if they do comment at all), what they think of the people and activities surrounding them.
And so on...
The question is, what drives the story for you? If you're creating, what do you find helps you find that unique story? If you start with plot first, what do you do to work out the voice, to give your own work that unique spin that you and only you could do?Posted by toni at April 27, 2006 02:33 AM