This is no secret: Writers reuse.
In a world built on creativity, this may seem like a big faux pas. But writers old and new alike agree: Everything worth telling has (probably) already been told. In fact, a writer I admire recently talked about borrowing material when stuck (point number 7).
While this may sound discouraging, I find I freeing. I’ve let go of this idea of “finding the perfect story” or the “untold story.” Instead, I focus on a story that I love to tell, hoping that my personal passion for the characters and the world will blur over the page and charm the reader.
In fact, I recently read a popular book that claimed to be well-known fairytale retelling. I, personally, love fairytale retellings and this particular fairytale just happened to be my favorite. So, I gravitated toward this book like Newton and, well, gravity. Yet, I found myself…bored. The problem, for me, was that it too closely resembled its namesake. Until—wham!—the author pulled out a stunning and unpredictable third act, setting up her story for a future series, making the whole thing entirely her own.
So, what am I saying? Two things:
- It’s okay to borrow for inspiration. We all do it. My own novel—as original as I thought it was in its conception—I’ve come to realize is structured a lot like Peter Pan. And guess what? That’s okay! Because…
- It’s still my own story. It has similarities with Peter Pan, but it’s completely my own idea, my own twist on what the world may know of as Peter Pan.
If you’re borrowing from a story—good for you! Take pride in your inspiration. Just ensure your muse is just that—only a muse and not a lens through which your entire story is told. And if you’re facing the dreaded writer’s block and need some inspiration, take a look at the picture above; maybe one of those stories can spark a wildfire.