How to make your story truly your own

Author:
Publish date:

Image placeholder title

The Thirty-Six
Dramatic Situations
is a list George
Polti created to catalog every dramatic situation that might occur in a story or
performance. Every last situation. Essentially meaning: no other situation exists
outside these thirty-six. Haven’t you heard this from writing teachers, too? That
there are only so many plots, so many stories that can be told? A writing
friend of mine recently reminded me that Dostoevsky once said there were, in
fact, only two stories in the whole
world: 1. Man goes on a journey and 2. Stranger comes to town. And so if there
are limited stories to tell (or only two to tell) how can we strive as writers to
still be original?

o·rig·i·nal·i·ty is
defined as the ability
to think or express oneself in an independent and individual manner. It is
creative ability. Freshness or novelty, as of an idea, method, or performance.

You hear it all the time— originality is what makes one
story stand out from the rest. My professor recently said to me, “What I like
about this story is your new take on an old topic. It’s fresh.” Fresh. It’s another
word you hear a lot. Agents love it. Publishers love it. Readers love it.
Familiarity with a topic or situation can be appreciated as long as one is
surprised by the fresh way the story is told. And so yes, that is our job: How we tell the story.

Dorothea Brande, author of Becoming a Writer said this about originality:

“…it
is not the putting your character in the central position of a drama which has
never been dreamed of before that will make your story irresistible. Even if it
were possible to find such a situation it would be an almost heartbreaking feat
to communicate it to your readers, who must find some recognizable quality in
the story they read or be hopelessly at sea. How your hero meet his dilemma, what you think of the impasse—those are
the things which make your story truly your own; and it is your own individual character,
unmistakably showing through your work, which will lead you to success or
failure.”

Check out the Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations here.

What do you think? At the very least, it is a list of
beginnings. A list one can pick from to inspire the shell of a story. Where originality
comes into play is with the filling of the shell. An original story is made up of unique
characters, a bold voice, a fresh, distinctive tone. And yet, while striving for something new is
always important, it’s even more vital to stay true to your aesthetic. You must
stay true to you. We all see the
world in vastly different ways. We talk differently, think differently, act
differently. And it is these differences that get us noticed. It is these
differences that make our work singular. Original. And that’s the stuff of magic.

“Originality
is not seen in single words or even sentences. Originality is the sum total of
a man’s thinking or his writing.”

-Isaac
Bashevis Singer

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 22

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a nature poem.

The Past Is Never Past: Drawing on Personal History to Write Engaging Historical Fiction

The Past Is Never Past: Drawing on Personal History to Write Engaging Historical Fiction

New York Times bestselling author Karen White discusses what drew her to writing historical fiction and how she uses a modern setting to explore history.

Writing Multiple Timelines and Points of View

Writing Multiple Timelines and Points of View

YA author Natalie Lund gives her top reasons why writers who might be afraid to play with multiple timelines and/or points of view should jump in feet first.

Alexander Weinstein: On Writing a Thematic Short Story Collection

Alexander Weinstein: On Writing a Thematic Short Story Collection

Author Alexander Weinstein discusses how he came to select the theme of his new short story collection, Universal Love, and what it was like to see those themes reflected in the real world.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 21

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a blank me poem.

4 Tips for Writing about Family Grudges

4 Tips for Writing about Family Grudges

Author Samantha Downing discusses the techniques she used when writing her literary novel He Started It, which focuses on family secrets, old grudges, and lots of scores to settle.

W.A. Winter: On the Joys of Writing Crime Fiction

W.A. Winter: On the Joys of Writing Crime Fiction

Crime and suspense author W.A. Winter discusses why he decided on fiction over true crime for his latest novel, The Secret Lives of Dentists, and how writing this book brought him joy.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Day 20

Write a poem every day of April with the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge. For today's prompt, write a Love and/or Anti-Love poem.