Wednesday, 7 December 2011

H is for Heartfelt

The thing is, every plot you can think of has already been done. There are various theories about the number of plots there are - depending on who you read there are 27, 12, 7 or 2. Shakespeare is credited with creating several of them, but given part of his genius was taking stories that were current and making them entirely his own, I'd take that with a pinch of salt.

So you can't write an original plot. You can't write original characters - someone else has already been there. Recognise any of these embarrassing things?

- A man whom one loves gets drunk and keep repeating himself.
- Parents, convinced that their ugly child is adorable, pet him and repeat the things he has said, imitating his voice.
- In the presence of a skilled musician, someone plays a zither just for his own pleasure and without tuning it.
- A man recites his own poems (not especially good ones) and tells one about the praise they have received.
- To have spoken about someone not knowing that he could overhear.

They're all taken from The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon, written over 1000 years ago in the court of the Heian dynasty in 10th century Japan. It's about as far away from us as it's possible to be, but we recognise it. There are no new characters, no new observations.

But. Yesterday I wrote: No one else can write a Sarah Duncan novel. What you can do that is new and fresh is write your take on the world. No one will have ever done that before. Write with authenticity and your writing will be unique. Write from the heart - it's the only way.


Patsy said...

In workshops I've seen how a group of people can take the same elements and use them for completely different stories. So yes, although it's been done before we can still write a new version.

Giles Diggle said...

I agree with you. I believe the story will always out once you have found your voice. Stay true to yourself.

I can never be a true trickster or conjuror; so I speak in the only way I know and do everything I can to avoid becoming a novelty act.

L is for Luck & T is for Timing.

Sarah Duncan said...

Patsy, I'm constantly amazed in class how people use the same material as spring boards for such different responses.

Giles, Staying true to yourself is what it's all about. There's no point otherwise. I'll think about L for luck and T for timing, I'd got a couple of other ideas but yours sound better!