No New Stories

no new stories

I attended a creative writing seminar where our lecturer was an award-winning writer, who felt it was his duty to knock fantasy out of our minds and help us rearrange our aspirations.

“Don’t think you’re going to be the next Shakespeare and write a never-written-before novel. There are no new stories,” he said.

His forehead was wide and shiny and his hairline indicated that baldness waited in his future. He swept through the class with his big eyes letting his words sink in.

Did he imagine that we could not even match his own mild success? I completed my writing exercises on time using the formula he gave us: a story has a beginning, a middle, and an ending. I didn’t care for original ideas. I was involved in a steamy romance with creative non-fiction, the only genre I thought I would ever write. I wrote about my real experiences or that of others, injecting lively words into sentences to transport readers to my world.

When I delved into the world of fiction, I looked for original ideas. Once I found them, I scribbled and scribbled until I perfected my story. After I shared my story with friends, one of them said, “Oh, your story is based on that Nollywood movie . . .” Another said, “You copied so-and-so famous writer’s story.”

But, I hadn’t watched that Nollywood movie and I hadn’t read the famous writer’s book. I had just thought about a story and written my thoughts down! It was then that the lecturer’s words came back to bite me and I bought into the idea that I don’t have any new story to tell.

My imagination is a collection of all I’ve seen, heard, touched, smelt, and tasted, synthesized and served as a ‘new’ dish. So, the more I engage my senses the more my brain has to synthesize and serve as imagination. Then it takes skill to arrange my imagination in a format that others can and want to understand.  Enter language or words.

I began to understand why aspiring writers are advised to read and write a lot—to broaden imagination and acquire skill.

When I get good ideas for a story, I don’t google key words to see who else has written about it. I just know for sure that someone else has done so already. However, unless their name is Timi Yeseibo, they have not written it in my voice or through the nuance of my experiences, which help me filter life.

This difference makes me unafraid to write about Romeo and Juliet because in the century in which I live, they would meet via Tinder and their death would be featured on Instagram. The themes of love, faithfulness, betrayal, and death remain timeless and universal. My children after me will also write the same story flavoured by the sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and feelings of their time.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

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45 thoughts on “No New Stories

  1. It’s like different singers singing the same song……and by the way you have a wonderful voice! I saved posts from when I was in the middle of our disasters and am slowly making it through my favorite bloggers’ posts that I missed. So, glad I saved this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have this firm belief that ideas are universal in origin but dispense exclusively in individuality. There is nothing new under the sun I affirm but I believe that what makes each ideas, themes of writing or any form of creative art for that matter interesting and unique is the latte of the multifaceted lenses of our experiences and worldview through we express them.
    Probably there are no new story to tell but there are many interesting way to tell them * that’s the difference in my humble opinion

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly ma’am . Perhaps we embrace those mediums to soak in and take a drink from the vast arrays of forms of knowledge from which we receive insights which when mixed with our individuality creates another interesting angle that’s modifies our experiences in a way including mode of self expression

        Like

  3. Yes it is true that there really is nothing new under the sun but i have found that my favorite writers aren’t those who say anything new but those who tell real stories with words and expression that makes the everyday and inconsequential seem so extraordinary. We do not need any new stories, we need real stories about characters like us written in a way that makes us feel. I love your writing by the way

    Liked by 1 person

  4. R & J meeting on Tinder and their death captured on Insta: PRICELESS! Well your creative writer sounds like a bit of a killjoy! When I used to be a full-time stylist, I too was told that there were no more original shoots to be done, and in some ways that may be true but as in writing, once the author puts their own stamp on things, surely that makes it different…its an interesting topic for sure! ( :

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t realize this school of thought also exists in the world of stylists. I should have …

      It is an interesting topic. Fashion pieces are recycled all the time, but I notice that they make a comeback with a contemporary slant. Sometimes the fabrics are made from different materials or the cut is different. That’s the author putting his stamp… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your confidence in your talent. I don’t think very highly about teachers who try to make people’s aspirations smaller when it’s hard enough to succeed. When I first moved to LA, my first acting teacher made it very clear that all of us should be so lucky to actually have a career. It made me think, what am I paying you for if you have no faith? I get that it’s not about shooting for fame or fortune- but it is about opening people up to their best work if you ask me.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I like the way you thought about your first acting teacher’s antics- we’re not paying to have our hopes crushed! The teachers may not want to sugar coat harsh reality, but still … Oh well determined students won’t be so easily discouraged.

      @confidence in talent, thanks. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Consistent writing, blogging, helps us discover it. Today I read something supposedly written by me. As I finished reading the second sentence, I shook my head. “I couldn’t have written this! It’s just not me.” I exclaimed. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m not sure I agree with your instructor . . . or those whose sentiments he was echoing.

    Perhaps it depends on how you define “story.” Let’s take Harry Potter. Certainly there are themes in the story (bravery, courage, etc.) that we’ve seen before, but what other writer dreamed up a story set at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry featuring a game called Quidditch and clueless muggles and classes in the Dark Arts and Polyjuice Potion and Mandrakes and . . . ?

    No one. That’s who!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think see what you mean. The themes are the same, the ‘presentation’ different. I guess that’s why we still watch the ‘predictable’ blockbuster movies, for example. The ‘effects’ give us a ‘different’ experience each time

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hmmmm. No new stories, eh? I used to feel that way about music, but my ears are continueously surprised by new sounds, songs and voices. I suppose what he meant was that very basic plot lines have already been said and done, but I don’t know! I can’t say I agree with him (what a downer he was!)…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol, at the time, I thought so too @downer 🙂

      Some say there are 7 basic plots (others say 12), in that sense, I tend to agree. Still there are fresh ways of telling the ‘same’ story. I guess that’s why we still have contemporary renditions of the Cinderella story, for example.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. How boring the world must seem for him, believing that there are no new stories… I read a lot and I’ve come across the same themes so many times that I can’t even count and yet I cannot remember two stories alike.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe he didn’t want us searching for that ‘elusive’ original story like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Indeed my recollection of the event is that he sounded as though he wanted to dampen our aspirations.

      What a rich reading experience you’ve had! It’s wonderful when each writer brings something fresh to the table.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can’t help but think that those who teach us should be obliged to inspire. He probably meant it better than he said it but to me it sounds somehow like … “I won that award but you can’t do it, forget about the idea of writing something better than I did” 😀 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Good for you, Timi. Writing without fear is half the battle.
    Yes, writers need to be readers. But there comes a point where a writer needs to put the works o others down and delve into his or her own work. I also refuse to scour Google to find out what others are doing that might be similar. I write what I want to write.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Writing without fear, I’ve been rolling the phrase over in my mind all day long …
      It is indeed half the battle. I’ve also come to terms with the fact that my writing doesn’t resonate with everyone. There are billions of people on the planet and some are my ‘intended’ audience. That’s freeing also.

      Love your last sentence: I write what I want to write …

      Like

  10. As always, you words shine in ways some can only dream about. 🙂

    I am all too aware that a writer’s ego basks in originality. Recently, I had painstakingly constructed a blog post after days and days of editing and polishing it to the point where I felt satisfied with its packaging.

    The day before it was due to be published, whilst browsing through blogs, I came upon this piece by another blogger that bore the slightest resemblance to a portion of my own drafted post.

    I groaned a groan of vanity, I didn’t want to seem like I was copying. I then decided not to publish that post the next day and it has sat in my draft folder ever since. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have held back, that post deserves its day in the sun. It was carefully written based on a unique fusion of my own emotions and senses.

    Your lecturer was somewhat right, there are no new stories to tell. We see, hear and smell the same things, sharing similar inspirations, but what differentiates our writings is our interpretation, just as distinct as the strands that constitute our respective DNA.

    Have a lovely week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmmm, the writer’s ego… I know!
      I can imagine how you felt, I probably would have felt the same way too. Every now and then I dabble into reading about where ideas come from, especially when my writing closely mirrors another’s. Interesting stuff.

      I hope you resurrect and publish your post soon. It should be ‘original’ after all this time! XD

      Thanks Nedu.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. What I got from the story is reinforce the idea that there is still a space for you in the market no matter what has been done previously. Never give up that your dream from the filling that they might not make any special difference from what has been done earlier. However; I have a news for you. As long as you are hard working and willing to put I’m your best you will certainly make a difference and you can ultimately cut a space for yourself. That was a wonderful piece from you Timi

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A shocking discovery for me at first. I’m glad I’m learning to capitalize on it; to focus on my voice and the things that set me apart.

      Austin Kleon takes it further, when he says: steal like an artist…

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I often happen upon stories that are exactly like ideas I am working on that I think novel. I abandon those ideas to return when I would, at least, have the freedom to work on them without fear of being influenced by the stories I’ve read. This hurts a lot when the other work is a masterpiece.

    Some have even taken this idea to the point of saying all stories are the same. I don’t agree with that, but it’s interesting to see the attempt to explain it here: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/01/into-the-woods-excerpt/421566/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that on some level it helps to think your story is original as you write. I feel your disappointment when you find out your new idea has already been written. I agree, revisit the project later.

      I finally read the link. Good stuff.
      Talking about stories, the writer says: Though they are superficially different, they all share the same framework and the same story engine: … in whatever form they choose to take, in every story “monsters” are vanquished.

      I tend to agree. There is a sense in which every story is a quest for a savior ….

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you, Timi. I really enjoyed reading this.

    I agree. No matter how many times a story is told, it is never really the same story if told by different writers.

    I believe every writer is different and unique. This is what makes the difference in the tales.

    But then again, every writer must first find their own voice through consistent practice.

    Again, thank you. I enjoyed reading this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad the piece resonates Christy.
      Practice practice practice, experiment, experiment, experiment …

      “Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find your self.”
      ― Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

      Does Kleon have a point? 😉

      Like

  14. This is kind of what entrepreneurship feels like. What do you want to do that no one else has done? It feels like every thought you think has been thought a thousand times each by a billion other people. You’re just another cast from the same mold.

    At least, that’s what I felt for a while there. It took three years to find a packaging for my idea that simply wasn’t out there. The first idea was a magazine called PC World and maybe a billion other magazines like that. The second was a website named Nairaland and at least three million others just like it. The third was probably Facebook. I think I ran the gamut and realized that someone had done something just like that. But why did I keep going really?

    Just now I thought how about the Wright brothers and the aeroplane. If they weren’t the first, who was? Leonardo da Vinci? If not him, who? I’m not sure. But we know that the Greeks thought about human flight. I often wonder if civilizations lost in that flood of Noah’s day and since may not have been remarkably sophisticated and we are only rediscovering things they once discovered.

    Ideas are not original to humans but somehow we have the ability to own them and do individual things with them that make one idea a billion things. That was why I kept going. There was something I wanted to accomplish that none of those other people had managed to do. PC World educated people on electronic products but could a simple Aba boy who wanted a phone afford it or even understand it? Clearly not. I wanted to make PC World but in a form that even village people with very little education could afford and understand.

    I wanted to build a Nairaland that reached farther than the Naira land and with a far better information discovery. I wanted a Nairaland too that could be taken seriously by everybody.

    I wanted a Facebook that allowed me to discover people culturally as members of a human community. I wanted to be able to visit places I’d never heard of on my device.

    In my idea, I found various ideas and many different interpretations of it. But in my hands my idea was an entirely new world.

    There will always be original stories as long as we have original human beings. They will just be different windows into the same world. We can hardly look into another world that we cannot even conceptualize.

    Good one, Timi. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Different windows into the same world… I like that. What a rich world with varying perspectives. I guess if the market is already saturated with an idea or product, one would have to look into adding even more value or other ways of adding value.

      I wish you all the best as you translate your ideas into reality.

      Thanks Odii! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. in some stories, the plot is structured in a way that the end justifies the beginning. truth is, there is nothing said that has not been said and nothing written that has not been written but as time changes so does the prevailing circumstances and situations that surrounds it and this is the only novelty we bring into our work and same will our progeny brings into theirs…….nice write up Timi.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. A story should have a beginning, middle and an end, just not necessarily in that order. Telling a familiar story in an original and creative way saves the day. Once again you impress me with your prose: “I was involved in a steamy romance with creative non-fiction…” love this turn of phrase. Cheers!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Yes indeed, there’re are no new stories! I can remember when I was done reading “On a night like this’ by Barbara Freethy; I said to my friend “this is a normal everyday affair, anyone could just think of it! I didn’t forget to add, not everyone can make it beautiful”. Tell the same story, but tell it differently! 😊

    Liked by 5 people

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