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Some awful concepts are so thoroughly and widely accepted (and presented) as fact that they may seem like they are actually true. One of these is an extremely sad, depressing view of the creative process. One that is a) wrong and b) harmful to new writers.

Since the dogma is so ground into society that people believe it on blind faith, lets suffer through the cliché. “There is nothing new under the sun”. It is often buoyed up by suggestions that you steal ideas because nothing is new, (I’ll scream later) and such hopelessly limited views about how many plots there are in the universe.

Lets tackle each aspect. First the meta problem. Here is the conversation I imagine having when faced by someone duped into believing there is nothing new.

"So in 1984 when Steve Jobs demoed the Apple Macintosh that wasn’t new? Are you feeling all right? That was the dawn of a new age of technology! We had been building up to it with the awesome concept of the mouse and Tim Berners Lee was working up to being the master behind the world wide web. The hyperlink has changed everything. I would call that new.

Then this poor hypothetical soul retorts that he is only referring to fiction.

"That doesn't change my stance. There are plenty of new things to write about. How do I know? Because our world keeps changing, rather like computers themselves just look at the iPad. Since our world and the people around us are always moving in one direction or another, there are always more stories to tell. Perhaps you can’t imagine or see anything new, which would be unfortunate. But that doesn't mean the rest of us can't. Give up the cliché and open your eyes!

How sad it must be to see such a rich, incredible, multi-faceted world and miss the beauty, the nuance, the potential. Screw the primary colours, give me the whole box of crayons! The big one. We will never know everything there is to know about being human, because - and here is the really incredible thing - despite the fact our brains are little changed from at least six thousand years ago, what it means to be human never stops evolving. How cool is that!

Fiction is about the human experience. And I can guarantee you, my view looks very different from someone who has given up on finding new material.

Yes there are some similarities that will naturally occur no matter how fleshed out you make your characters. Just like people. If I had to fight really hard I could come up with something that I have in common with Dick Cheney... okay I only have that we are both Caucasian. But you get my point.

That’s one of the wonderful mysteries about being human. We all carry around a personal culture that has aspects in common with others but we are each unique and I don’t mean that in an “I’m special”, Mr. Rogers way. The fact we can communicate at all is incredible and is the reason I studied it in college.

If you think your work sounds like someone else's maybe you haven’t written your way through the copycat phase and gotten to the original content. If you have broken through and honestly believe that having a few elements in common with another writer is bad, please find a therapist. Your self esteem sucks. You are capable of creating something new.

From this you can easily see what I might say about assertions that there are x number of plots. Please go read my article on plot and rethink your position. All you need are full rich characters and you will have a unique story.

Which brings me to stealing. Inspiration is not the same thing as repackaging someone else's idea. The former is a compliment, the latter is akin to graveyard robbery. It’s just icky.

If I see a story about a werewolf and am inspired to write a story about a were-cat as a result I can guarantee you what I produce would be different. That is not stealing. That is merely a spark. For example, say the source was a scary movie. But I liked the idea of lycanthropies and decided, well what if the were-beast was a good guy? Or what if the werewolf could be saved some how? We have one seed in common and that’s it.

If you feel you need to steal someone else's idea because you have given up finding one of your own please close up your computer and give up until the urge passes.

Again, maybe you find you keep having subconscious rip-offs and think this must be normal. It is, if you haven’t had enough practice; if you haven’t matured as an artist, if you are not yet ready. But once you find your own voice you will leave copying in the dirt. It is an insult to the art to give up and assume you’ve reached your potential when you haven't. And if you feel you need to steal to create, you haven't.


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