Creating Frankenstein’s Monster
When I first started writing, I was a child. I wrote the stories I already knew. Stories about alligators who ate grandma (Red Riding Hood?) or stories of finding a fantasy world in your closet (Narnia?). I was taking elements of stories I already knew and turning them into something that I created. I guess you could call it fanfiction, but this wasn’t a conscious thing. I just knew what I loved and I wrote that.
As I got older, I felt as if I was cheating if I copied an author I loved. Writing should be 100% original and 100% unique. The fact that I couldn’t create anything that no one has ever thought of before made me feel like I wasn’t good enough to be a writer.
But now, I’m reminded of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (yes, I’m a Trekkie, get over it). Data, an android, was concerned because his violin playing wasn’t original. He was unable to create something new because he was not human. Instead, he chose aspects of composers and musicians that he thought was good and he pieced them together. Captain Picard pointed out that just by choosing these artists to piece together, Data was creating something original and unique.
This works with writing as well. I read Hemingway and think, “if I could pack a huge amount of meaning into the simplest words and sentences that’d be sweet!” Or “if I could create characters that pop out of the page like Joyce!” I love Paulo Coelho’s dream-like worlds and JK Rowling’s plots. Douglas Adams has fantastic humor and Megan Whalen Turner knows how to do plot twists!
All of these elements are not original and certainly I couldn’t take these stories and claim them as my own. However, when I read these authors, I could note how they manage to stir these emotions in me and how I could do that in my own writing.
Then can create my own monster. It’s up to me to give it life and by doing that, I find my own voice – my own unique stories and characters. There are no new stories, but there are infinite ways to tell them.