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Chances are, when you’re writing a story, you’ve decided elements from different other stories to compose your story with. This isn’t a bad thing; if done right. But naturally, a lot of people fail here.
For simplicity reasons, we’re going to define the elements as, well, the elements. Plot, Characters, Setting, etc. And, we’ll go over them one at a time.
This is the most common problem element. Just yesterday I was dealing with someone (who for some reason still doesn’t realize) that didn’t realize their OC was the problem. It was your classic Jeff the Killer OC, which effectively ruined the story.
When it comes to characters, chances are you’ve probably based it from another character in another story. Don’t. Why? Oftentimes, that said Character turns INTO the character you trying to base it off, not the character you’re actually aiming for: an original character which you can actually call your own. You can’t replicate the Mona Lisa, change the name, and then sell it to an art gallery. Why would you be able to do the same thing here?
Instead, drop that character. Blacklist it from your head. It won’t work. Make up elements yourself, taking few, if any details from a single other character. Mixing details of other characters together is fine and dandy if you don’t go overboard, and you don’t just use any two characters. Variety is power.
Of course, making up details yourself is the best suggestion.
Setting is the place, time, and situation in which the story takes place. You should have no problem coming up with a good setting; the possibilities are limitless. You could have your story in a post-apocalyptic desert world in 1492 if you wanted to. Would it be realistic? Not really. But that’s where you have to keep in mind that your setting must correlate into the plot.
There are a variety of things you can do for a setting. There’s no reason your setting should be exactly the same as another story. Again, you’ve probably retrieved elements from somewhere else, but there isn’t a reason that you should have not been able to come up with a decently plotted setting even a little ways by yourself.
Thus, having the EXACT same setting is a tad ridiculous. Having a setting that is close enough to be exact is ridiculous. For example, let’s say I just read Dogscape. In that story, the setting is a post-apocalyptic world – made out of dog. If I write a story with a setting made out of cat, it’s unoriginal and just makes me look bad, and chances are I’ve drawn other things from that story into mine as well.
The Plot and setting pretty much go hand in hand. Why did the apocalypse happen in the 1400’s? Why is Columbus walking about the desert with a flintlock and calling himself a desperado rather than sailing the ocean blue?
It’s confusing if you don’t put these things out there. Somewhere along your plotline you have to tell us how Hitler went back in time and ended the world in 1472. You’re changing history, and that makes it different to the reader. On top of that, again, you’ve probably drawn elements from other stories.
A plot is one of the more original elements. It’s the timeline and outline of every event in the story, before the story, and after it. It’s simply that the focus ties into where the story is now. You have to be able to explain all of these things.
The plot can also be fairly problematic. Your characters and setting could be fine, BUT:
- Kid is in town
- Kid gets bullied
- Kid kills family
Remind you of any particular plotline you’ve read before? Thought so.
That’s not a good thing. Not even close. The plotline should be original and come from your head, not a story you recently read over and liked.
- Characters can be mixed but not based completely off a single character. The more characters the better, variety is power, but it should have something you put into it.
- Possibilities for setting are limitless. No reason for you to not have an original setting.
- Plot ties everything together – it’s all of the events in the story. Your plot should explain the setting and characters. Again, no reason not to be original.