The word original is often used in a positive sense: it's the idea of something completely new. It goes along with phrases like, "Just be you!" and in general, our society outwardly preaches the importance of originality.
When a book is praised, words such as original and unique are not uncommon. It's been said sometimes, even by me, that being original is something to be applauded. Good for you. You didn't go with the trend. You did something completely different. You're special.
I recently read a really good post by Icy Cold Reads about being original. She said something along the lines of traditionally published books being less original and out there than self-pubbed books. It's not something I completely agree with, but her discussion post fulfilled its purpose of starting discussion.
It came again to me that original is always seen as this essential good thing. To be honest though, I can't think of any book that is completely original in any way, self published or not. So many stories and creations have been made that by this point, I don't know if you can add anything singularly new to a book.
The sexy jerk is well used in YA books, but so is the sweet guy, the best friend, the next door neighbour... pretty much every incarnation of romance.
And while really wacky books like this but even weird erotica books are not as hard to find anymore.
I don't believe in original anymore. I believe that stories are similar, every forbidden romance can be like Romeo and Juliet which was probably similar to some kind of myth that Shakespeare heard. You're never going to end up with something completely new. There are some stories that humanity has had for thousands of years. That's why there are things like the rule of three and the cycle of a tragic hero become so well known. They work, and they've existed for a really long time.
This makes me reconsider all the times I used original in my reviews. When I really think about it, the story wasn't exactly original in the literal sense. I think the connotation of original is the one that makes more sense.
Nothing is original, but what stops people from reading a book and realizing that at the end of the day, all stories follow a similar plotline? Even the ones that try not to, follow one. I think this is where talent and execution and the author come in.
Nothing I read is brand new or revolutionary. It can feel that way though.
It can feel that way because of my experiences. I can interpret meaning from words and combine it with my own experiences so that certain phrases or scenes can somehow mean something to me, and these scenes will remain original in my mind because they made me feel something and that doesn't always happen. We end up attributing originality as what makes a book special when maybe that's not it.
All the same, it's a compliment to the author, but I think maybe when we say it's original, we're not just praising the idea. That shouldn't be the focus. I think "original" is more a testament to an author's ability to execute; to write an evocative story that can draw a reader in so much that they forget every other similar story. To get people to worry about this story and happy endings- like, let's be honest, how often are there unhappy endings? Yet I worry SO much about the characters I care about anyway, even knowing the odds.
Every author interprets basic stories and puts their own spin on them. Even then, their story may not be completely "original" but it doesn't have to be for me to enjoy it. That's the reason I can enjoy authors like Simone Elkeles. Her Perfect Chemistry series was nothing ground shaking. All the books in the trilogy were pretty formulaic, but I still enjoyed them every single time because she has the talent to get me to care about characters and lose myself in a story.
A lot of talents and good execution can go into making a story original. I think though, that the next time I use the word original, I might pause a little and try to determine an exact meaning. Through Cappies Critic training, I learned that being specific is one of the most important things in any review. Original can mean so much and authors deserve to be applauded when a reviewer thinks they did it right.