Tell me if this sounds familiar, Reader?
“I can’t write this story, it’s too similar to [insert popular book/series]. Whatever will I do? Everything’s already been written.”
The thing is, this imaginary storyteller—or not-so-imaginary one—is focusing on the wrong thing. They shouldn’t focus on how their story is the same as everything that already exists. But instead on how it differs.
When sitting down to create a new story—or fretting over one you’ve already written—ask yourself if you’ve done any of these:
Did you take a classic story but shift the perspective to a side character or even someone entirely fabricated?
The movie Rosaline is Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” but from the perspective of a character that never actually appears in the play itself. She’s mentioned, sure, but she never actually sets foot on stage during the course of the tragedy and the movie itself is a comedy.
Another example is The Great Mouse Detective movie based on the children’s book series Basil of Baker Street which is, of course, based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books.
In The Great Mouse Detective, the mouse detective Basil, along with the aid of David Q. Dawson, a retired army surgeon, must thwart the plans of the criminal mastermind Professor Ratigan.
Does your story take a classic story, genre tropes, or a popular setting but infuse it with underrepresented peoples?
Are your Legendary Characters Neurodivergent, queer, people of color, or Pacific Islander?
There have been several fantastic recastings, retellings, and reimaginings of older stories recently that showcase a greater diversity of persons.
Are you from an underrepresented group? Then now’s an excellent time to add your voice into the world.
Swapping an Element or Changing the Setting
Are you swapping out or switching up an element or setting that sets your story apart from the others? Maybe something that would shift it into another genre?
My Hero Academia is essentially a magical school anime/manga but with super-powered individuals instead of wizards/mages/sorcerers/witches. It even follows a similar format to a lot of the popular stories out there.
There are dozens of these stories out there but they each have something unique to offer, so none come off as a cookie cutter of the one beside it.
Here’s another unique example as a case study:
My most favorite musical is an imaginative Caribbean-set retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid called Once on This Island.
In Once on This Island, 4 gods make a bet over the life of one orphan girl as to which is more powerful, love or death. Ultimately they get their answer—love—but in the process, they end up getting her killed. They do feel sorta shitty about it so they turn her into a…
It’s an absolutely brilliant story that tackles the themes of love and sacrifice, as well as racism and imperial colonialism. And no one in their right mind would ever call it a cheap knock-off of The Little Mermaid.
(I had the opportunity to be in this award-winning musical in the summer of 1997. And apparently, Disney+ is in the process of adapting it for film.)
So the important thing to remember, Reader, is that we as storytellers aren’t required to create entirely new ideas. All we truly need to do is express familiar themes in uniquely creative ways.
Just like the works I mentioned here today.
Well, I better get back to these final edits on Predestined which releases this fall, Reader. Hope you have a wonderfully creative week!
Your cohort in storytelling,
PS 👉 Fun Fact: Speaking of The Little Mermaid, did you know Hans Christian Andersen sent the original story to his friend Edvard Collin as an engagement present and wrote in a letter to him:
It was after learning that Andersen had an unrequited love for his male bestie that I wrote my Boys Love Little Mermaid mashup in 2021.
Not interested in learning to be a storyteller and just want to read some heart-pounding Boys Love fiction instead? Abandon this quest
Do you need/want to change your name or email? You can update it here
Don't want to hear from me like ever again? Just Unsubscribe
The Saga Quest
1179 West A Street, Suite 137, Hayward, CA 94541