Bright Idea — but not mine!

During the night I awakened and joined my characters in the better part of an hour’s discussion about an idea, a brilliant plot twist that would punch up the suspense in my story. The idea, unfortunately, didn’t make it through to the light of day. Normally when something occurs to me during the night I write it down because I know I won’t remember it in the morning. But by the end of the discussion I had already decided it wasn’t an original idea. It was only the lingering fragments of a dream — an idea gleaned from somewhere else, something recently read or viewed on television.

I know every plot idea has already been done before, and what counts is the unique fingerprint we place on its development. But this idea? It felt like a reflection of another one. I couldn’t quite pin down where it came from, but it definitely wasn’t mine. Such a shame. Under the cover of darkness… under my covers… it seemed so promising.

How do you know your stories are truly original, and aren’t simply mirroring one from among the multitude you’ve previously read?


“Writing is a struggle against silence.”

Carlos Fuentes


“The process of writing has something infinite about it.
Even though it is interrupted each night, it is one single notation.”

Elias Canetti

~  ~  ~

Whose Story Is It Anyway?

Authors get asked all the time about the source of their ideas and there’s never a simple explanation. A fragment of conversation, a fleeting glimpse of the unconventional, an unexpected sequence of events, and suddenly the writer’s mind is asking, “What if…?”


The idea won’t be original. There are basic themes that have regularly reappeared throughout literary history. It’s a given that whatever one chooses to write about has probably already been written by someone else.  What will make the story unique is not the idea but how it is developed by a particular author.


In his first contribution to the “Writer Unboxed” blog, Donald Maass says, “Originality can come only from what you bring of yourself to your story. In other words, originality is not a function of your novel; it is a quality in you.”


There is no better way to say it.

The Authentic Me

Ever since moving into this house a poster has been prominently displayed on my office wall. It has meant different things to me at different times in my life but always the words have reminded me of an important truth.



As I write, it urges me not to try to emulate others no matter how much I may admire their work, but to pull words directly from my core and express myself in a voice that is uniquely mine. I struggle each day to meet that challenge.