Nothing New to Say?

Writers get depressed on occasion and get to a point where they think their work sucks and they have nothing new to say.  I’ve heard there are only 9 basic book plots, but I haven’t tested the theory (Anyone want to try?).  I’ve also heard most fantasy book plots will either start with a stranger arriving in town or the main character leaves town (think about it – see?  You can think of a bunch that start this way).

A comment from a reader made me think about ideas and books and nothing new to say.  I have seen what I though were my own brilliant and original ideas ;> used in other novels – written before mine. After a fit of depression treated with ice cream therapy, I realized that in each case, I used the idea in a different way – put my own twist on it.

For example:  Butterfly’s dust in my first book, Poison Study.  I had thought it was a stroke of genius on my part – I created Butterfly’s Dust as a way to keep Yelena from escaping her new job as the poison taster.  She’s poisoned with BD and needs to take a daily antidote to stay alive.  One day I’m looking through my books (years after PS was written) and come across Barbara Hambly’s book, The Ladies of Mandrigyn, which I enjoyed back in college. I flip the book over and read the cover copy.  Half way through, I see this about Sun Wolf, a mercenary and main protagonist:  “…until he woke to find himself kidnapped and offered a grim choice by Sheera.  He could train and lead the ladies of Mandrigyn against Altiokis–or he could die in lingering agony from the anzid they had given him and for which only they had the antidote.”

Yikes!  Barbara had used poison to keep someone from running away – bummed out; I re-read the book and guess what?  She used it differently.  Sheera used magic to keep the anzid from killing Sun Wolf (if he left the town – the magic would break and he would die).  So, while I was not quite the genius as I had originally thought (go figure), I had managed to use the idea in my own way. And it’s also interesting that this part of Barbara’s book managed to burrow its way deep into my subconscious and stayed there for so many years (No – I’m not telling you how many) and through so many books just waiting for the perfect time to leap from the depths.

There may be nothing new to say (and I do wonder about all my other “brilliant” ideas and if they’re linked to some book read long ago or to something I had done or seen, but have forgotten), but I’m having fun taking what grows from the depths of my imagination and creating a new way to say it!

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  1. 1. Simon Haynes

    Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom had something similar, to a small degree. (Indy fed poison, offered antidote only if he goes along with a certain deal.)

    That’s the first one I thought of, and I’m sure there are others. (Total Recall?) Anyhow, like you say it’s the treatment of the idea rather than the idea itself. It’s just that you don’t want others crying ‘copycat!’

  2. 2. S.C. Butler

    It’s all about the spin. There are no new ideas, just different ways to tell them. I have a musician friend who puts it this way – “There are no bad songs, just bad versions of songs.” Substitute ‘stories’ for ‘songs’ and you can say the same thing about writing.

  3. 3. David de Beer

    Isaac Newton (I believe) said that he accomplished what he did by standing on the shoulders of giants.

    No, there’s little that’s new, and new ideas and concepts are not nearly as new as we often think. I look at it as a cumulative effect, though, pretty much every experience and every book and basically every thing gels together and writers put that into words and story.
    I think, one can be certain that every time a writer puts down a story, to them it’s new and familiar both, and hopefully enough readers will experience it that way too.

  4. 4. Edwin McRae

    Writing is like cooking. We take existing ingredients, combine them and cook them in some new and tantalizing way, and serve it up to the hungry readers. There’s nothing new about a carrot, or a beef steak, or an onion, but when you do some kind of Thai/Euro fusion kungfu flambe routine on them, you have something to blow your tongue off, or at least taste yummy.


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Author Information

Maria V. Snyder

Maria V. Snyder has been writing fiction and nonfiction since 1995. She has published numerous freelance articles in magazines and newspapers. Her first published novel, Poison Study appeared on the shelves in 2005, and chronicles Yelena’s challenges in surviving her dangerous job as a food taster. Magic Study follows with Yelena’s efforts to learn about her magic while searching for a rogue magician turned serial killer. Fire Study chronicles Yelena's adventures with a Fire Warper and was released in March 2008. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Maria earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Meteorology at Penn State University. Much to Maria’s chagrin, forecasting the weather wasn’t one of her skills. Writing, however, proved to be more enjoyable and Maria earned a Master of Arts degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. As part of her research for her Study novels, Maria signed up for a glass blowing class to learn how to shape molten glass. The first thing she learned is it is considerably harder to sculpt glass than it looks. Maria now has an extensive collection of misshapened paperweights, tumblers, and bowls. When she’s not traveling, Maria lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, son, daughter and yellow Lab. She is working on her next MIRA novel, Storm Glass, due out Spring 2009. Readers are welcome to contact Maria by e-mail at, or they can find more information on her Web site at Visit site.



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