There’s Nothing New Under the Sun

The Significant Other is currently obsessed with The Dresden Files. He told me I should read it. He said he’s positive I’m going to like it because it’s like True Blood and I liked The Southern Vampires Mysteries on which the HBO series was based. When he started describing The Dresden Files, I interrupted him by asking how The Dresden Files is different from the Sookie Stackhouse books.

I haven’t really thought much about it, but I guess it is true – there’s nothing new under the sun. The stories we read in books and see on both the small and big screens are retellings of other stories. Name any book, TV show, or movie out there, and more than likely it has elements taken from other sources.

Epic fantasies like the Harry Potter books borrow heavily from The Lord of the Rings. LoTR, on the other hand, is greatly influenced by Nordic and Celtic mythology.

Love stories like Pretty Woman use faerie tales like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast as templates.

Regency romances are often patterned after Georgette Heyer‘s books, which in turn use the so-called “Jane Austen formula.”

Vampire stories like Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight owe their existence to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. For his part, Bram Stoker used the life of Prince Vlad Tepes as inspiration for his story.

All stories are retellings of other stories. There is nothing new under the sun.

It doesn’t follow, though, that originality is a myth.

And yet, just because there is nothing new under the sun, it doesn’t follow that originality is a myth. A tale may be as old as dirt, but it can still sound new depending on how you spin your version of the tale.

As author and literary agent Donald Maass puts it:

Originality comes not from your genre, setting, plot, characters, voice or any other element on which we can work. It cannot. It isn’t possible. 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.

What you bring to the table is what makes your story original. After all, no one else has experienced your life as you have. You have your own perspective on what the world should be. No one looks upon the world the way you do.

It may be depressing to think that there’s really nothing new under the sun. I know the feeling because it was one of the reasons why I kept procrastinating on writing new fiction these last ten years.

The Significant Other told me that the difference between The Dresden Files and the Sookie Stackhouse books is the former puts more focus on Harry Dresden’s cases, making it a combination supernatural fantasy and crime procedural. The Southern Vampire Mysteries, on the other hand, is centered on Sookie Stackhouse’s personal struggles and relationships, making it more of a romance. These two series may be similar in some ways, but the way they were written makes them different.

There is nothing new under the sun. But if you put yourself in a story and spin it in your own unique way, you can make it totally original and brand new.

Image: Anita Patterson | MorgueFile


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Anna Sibal-Gonzaga is a freelance writer based in the Philippines. She likes reading books and watching movies and TV shows in the sci-fi, fantasy and historical genres. She is also a casual gamer and an all-around nerd.

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