How to make your story truly your own

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:

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

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.

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

Bashevis Singer

Poetic Forms

Rannaigecht Mor Gairit: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the rannaigecht mor gairit, a variant form of the rannaigecht.


The Writer, The Inner Critic, & The Slacker

Author and writing professor Alexander Weinstein explains the three parts of a writer's psyche, how they can work against the writer, and how to utilize them for success.


Todd Stottlemyre: On Mixing and Bending Genres

Author Todd Stottlemyre explains how he combined fiction and nonfiction in his latest book and what it meant as a writer to share his personal experiences.


Plot Twist Story Prompts: Take a Trip

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character take a trip somewhere.


Making the Switch from Romance to Women’s Fiction

In this article, author Jennifer Probst explains the differences between romance and women's fiction, the importance of both, and how you can make the genre switch.


Stephanie Wrobel: On Writing an Unusual Hero

Author Stephanie Wrobel explains how she came to write about mental illness and how it affects familial relationships, as well as getting inside the head of an unusual character.


Who Are the Inaugural Poets for United States Presidents?

Here is a list of the inaugural poets for United States Presidential Inauguration Days from Robert Frost to Amanda Gorman. This post also touches on who an inaugural poet is and which presidents have had them at their inaugurations.


Precedent vs. President (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use precedent vs. president with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 554

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a future poem.