by Allison Maruska
I used to never take risks. Never. I was one of those kids who had everything in order, always got straight A’s, and did everything by the book. I figured out quickly what was expected of me and did that, which made my teachers and bosses happy, and sometimes I’d do something that made me stand out a little.
And I mean a little.
Why was I so resistant to doing anything risky? To put myself out there?
Because when you step out of the box, you open yourself up to criticism. You place yourself in a position to be wrong.
I talked about this some from an author’s standpoint in this post. There are set “rules” when it comes to writing fiction (or doing anything creative, really). People come to expect certain elements from art. If you go too far outside those lines, there is push back. Criticism. Bad reviews.
People will say you did it wrong.
But there are two sides to every coin, right?
I read a quote once that says there are only twelve basic story ideas, and every new story that’s written is a retelling of one of those. New authors are advised not to strive for a truly original idea, because that will result in paralyzing writer’s block.
That may be true, but there are a million original ways to tell those stories, if you will.
The story of an orphan becoming the chosen one to fight evil isn’t original (Star Wars, anyone?), but twenty years ago, putting him in a wizard school was.
A competition where contestants fight to the death isn’t original (it’s very similar to a Japanese story), but having teenagers do it as an extreme form of reality TV was.
A story featuring an immortal vampire isn’t original, but having him sparkle and engage in a codependent relationship with a teenage girl was.
These examples have haters. Loud haters. Readers who told the authors they were wrong to write these stories in those ways. Yet the original storylines were so widely loved and accepted by the majority that they each resulted in movies based on them several times over.
Don’t fear being wrong. In fact, I’ll save you the suspense: if you go outside the box enough to do something creative, even if it isn’t wholly “original”, some people will say you did it wrong. But remember, stories that have the power to cause negative reactions also have the power to cause positive ones. And from what I’ve seen, more people than not appreciate an original story. The safe, middle-of-the-road stories are the ones that languish, because they don’t offer anything to talk about.
So prepare to be wrong, and dare to be original.
Guest post contributed by Allison Maruska. Allison likes to post in line with her humor blog roots, but she also includes posts about teaching and writing specifically.