The Originality Trap

And the reason I hate this book so, so much is that once the narrative seizes on this, after building everything around the dangers these things pose to everyone and everything for no good reason, it then decides that the monsters are the ones in the right.

Yep. They deserve to be free on Earth (except the one that isn’t from the same place as them). They deserve to chow down on humans as much as they want. And how dare humans try and stop them. Oh, and the bad guy, who himself killed the straight hell out of a bunch of humans and can’t provide a satisfactory reason for any of his actions (‘I’m created to fuck shit up! I can’t help it! But I clearly, clearly enjoy it! Wheee!’) deserves his heart’s desire.
Meanwhile, the love interest, who has faced things no being should ever face, has had part of his face eaten, and has personally saved the heroine’s life, is told to go screw. And this isn’t a ‘you’ve saved the day, here’s your free woman’ thing either. The two of them have good chemistry and care a lot for each other. The thing is, the heroine things granting the goddamn villain his life’s dream is much, much more important then even making sure the guy gets a decent eye patch (for the eye he gave up. For her.). She just leaves him on a hillside—after unleashing an army of human eating monsters into the world that she’s now the only being capable of fighting.
And again, this could have been done in a way that made me or the audience understand. It could have been an interesting gray area. But it wasn’t. We’re just expected to accept it because it’s a new and different twist. And if we’ve learned anything from M. Night Shamylan’s career is that a twist isn’t enough, no matter how much of a shocking swerve it is.
The takeaway here, from this tragedy of a book, is that originality of concept is not the most important thing in the world. It’s not even strictly necessary. Star Wars is a classic Hero’s Journey story that looted and pillaged earlier films for ideas, but the thing that crystallized out of it was uniquely good.
Hell, I’m going to come out here and admit this: the core conceit of Rune Breaker, a villain bound to serve a hero, was inspired by Mickey Zucker Reichert’s Legend of Nightfall, one of my favorite books. This doesn’t mean I ripped it off though; Ru is not Nightfall by a long shot, Ere is nothing like the world Nightfall is set in, and where the story goes with the binding is almost at right angles from one to the other.
Originality is a wonderful, glorious thing, but it doesn’t live only in core concepts. It lives in all parts of a story and it doesn’t have to permeate every ounce of it. It’s okay to use a stock character or trope if it serves the overall creative endeavor. And when you do create something that is wholly unique, it still needs to serve the story.
I hope this is a lesson that gets more people writing and saves a lot of great stories from destruction for not being original enough.
But mostly I hope this encourages you never, ever to read Ghost Ocean. That’s the important part here. Remember my sacrifice. I suffered so that you might be saved.
Next week, I’ll continue my trend of haranguing other writers in my soon to be award deserving post ‘Dear Novice Writers: Stop Doing These Things’. See ya then.
P.S.: A fun fact about Ghost Ocean is that despite being massively creative and original to the point of falling apart, do you know what the final, super-scary monster even the monsters aren’t okay with is? The Black Goat in the Wood with a Thousand Young.
Yep. After all that, Peters still decided to rip off Lovecraft.

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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