How to write an ‘original’ fiction story
Fiction is always messy when it comes to writing an original story. There’s no way that anyone could really write a story without using any ‘tropes’, because the traditional ways of writing stories are traditional for a reason. Also, whenever you come up with a seemingly brilliant idea, due to the sheer amount of fictional works, odds are someone else thought of it first. However, there are ways to make your story stand out from the crowd.
Use a different world
This is a big one. Firstly, let’s start with geography. Is your fictional world historical fiction, or set in the future? Make the effort to do some research, and otherwise know what the land looks like. But let’s say you are making a new world — many people do. Try not to use the stereotypical fantasy landscape. You probably know what I’m talking about — one huge continent, a large forested area home to a wild and/or very wise elvish style people, a cold area somewhere which likely has suspiciously Norse sounding names, quite likely a large, mostly barren desert somewhere. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad map, but you won’t get unique with it. Play around with the geography of your world. It doesn’t have to look like Earth. Maybe it’s an ocean planet, or a desert planet. Leave some realism in, though — for example, if there is a mountain range somewhere, there’ll be a desert nearby, in its rain shadow.
Using a different world doesn’t just have to do with geography. It also has to do with culture and species. Many fictional stories use almost the same species. There’s nothing wrong with tropes, but if you want your story to stand out, do not copy the species that exist from another book! It doesn’t have to be a brand-new sentient species, or even a new creature at all. While some myths have been steadily used in more and more stories, most have not. An easy way to get a brand-new species is to search up folktales from a Native culture, which are rarely used in stories. Native cultures, which include not just Native Americans but everything from African stories to Inuit stories to native Asians, indigenous Australians, and more. If you don’t want to run the risk of offending anyone, the answer is simple — find inspiration from more than one source! There are many real-life animals who are strange and mysterious, and I guarantee they won’t care what sort of character or species you base off of them. Create a hybrid form of giraffe vampire — who’s stopping you? Much more interesting than the typical form of vampire, no?
If you’re planning on writing an original fiction work, worldbuilding is a word you’ve likely heard of. But I wonder if everyone realizes the scope of the term. Wordbuilding, by nature, is focused mostly on setting, but there’s more to setting than the topography of the place and the types of creatures which inhabit it. Creating a unique world can hinge on your literal world, but it can also be focused on your magic system, the forms of technology which are available, your class system, the contrasting cultures of various peoples which inhabit your globe, and even the nuances of language. Worldbuilding can also be used to make your world unique by using more specific details. Maybe you have dragons in your world, but they are the size of airplanes, and they rarely land on the ground. Maybe your world is filled with typical woodlands, but life has a more metallic base, and one of your society’s conflicts is whether to harvest the metal and get temporary wealth, or take care of the forest and get smaller profits forever. It’s all under your control.
Make your characters “breathe”
You might not think that making sure your characters are original has much value when trying to make an original fiction story, and you might even leave it out of your checklist altogether. But this is a mistake. Having characters which feel unique elevates your story by making readers more likely to connect and care for them. Having stereotypical characters is not a sin, but if a stereotype is all a character is, are they really a person? Giving a character some relatable flaws and realistic strengths can be the key to making them a fan-favorite, especially when it comes to writing good heroes and villains.
Take the extra few minutes to add little details to your characters. Quirks, favorite colors or subjects, hobbies, mundane dislikes and fears. Even a powerful, serious character is allowed to have their foibles. Creating imperfect, but realistic, characters is an art form that will strengthen in more ways than one, and make it closer to being unputdownable — no matter what particular genre of fiction you write in.
Verify that your world is truly original
There are always stories which succeed despite being very similar to others — but if you clicked on this article, chances are you aren’t interested in your story being one of those. So far, I’ve given tips on how to make your world more original, but how can you feel sure? Even the best of us make mistakes sometimes, and as a writer, I know all too well how easy it is to overlook errors because my brain automatically skips over them.
But the solution is simple. Show or tell your story ideas to other people whom you trust! By running your ideas against others, who likely share less or even very few of your ‘biases’ in relation to your favorite stories, which you are more likely to pull ideas from subconsciously, you can protect yourself from accidentally creating a story with, for example, a very similar plot as another story out there. It’s also a good way to gauge just how much you’ve succeeded in your goal of making your story original.
In the end, there is no “perfect checklist” for making an original work of fiction. There are no 5-step to-do lists that guarantee a successful story. But there are things anyone can do to improve their stories and help them stand out from the crowd. These tips can help you on your journey to writing a great fictional story.