Finding Original Ideas

by Brenna Lowrance

Question: I prefer to write fiction, and really want to give a supernatural element to my main character, but everything seems to already have been done. I want to do this to make Everything from vampires to werewolves, and angels to shape shifters seems to be taken. Is there any advice you could give me?


Answer: Here are couple of ways to look at this issue.

First, while it is true that many stories have been written about vampires, it is also true that many more will continue to be written. Remember that a new generation of people is maturing at any given time that hasn't read all the old books and doesn't necessarily find these ideas overdone.

Of course, sometimes we need a break. Now that everyone (it seems) has read/watched Twilight or Vampire Academy or Stargate: Atlantis etc., the world might need ten years without vampires before a new generation is ready for a fresh take on them.

In fact, this might be true for the entire paranormal or urban fantasy genre. Young people have a natural tendency to want their own culture to be different from that of their parents. It's part of wanting their own identity. If your parents grew up on Star Wars, you may prefer Harry Potter (even though these stories are very similar, once you strip away the outer trappings). And your children will want their own heroes who will look different, but mainly on the outside.

Whatever is out of fashion will eventually be reborn in a new guise. This is why every generation gets a new version of King Arthur, Robin Hood, Odysseus, or The Three Musketeers.

Sometimes the new guise is strikingly new. For instance, many concepts in science fiction were borrowed from mythology or legends concerning the supernatural. Telepathy, for example, was originally the talent of a sorcerer. Aliens often resemble demons. What's the difference between a magic wand and a sonic screwdriver?

Very few ideas are wholly original.

That said, be careful about saying "everything's been done." There's an old joke (from 1899) in which an employee at the Patent Office says that there's no need to look at more patent applications because "everything that can be invented has been invented."

We have a tendency to be lazy in our thinking. When we sit down to think of a supernatural power/being/element to include in our story, the first things to come to mind are ideas we've encountered in other stories. Finding an original idea takes more time, thought, and playing with one's imagination.

You may need to go through a phase of frustration or despair in which it seems like there are no new ideas left. That's normal. Just keep at it. Make lists. Eventually, you will hit upon an original idea. Or you may find an original variation on an old idea, or several old ideas combined in a new way. Or perhaps a way to present an old idea that will be accessible to a new generation.

Best of luck.

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