Have All Stories Been Told? – Article on a Concept
There’s an adage that all stories have been told. That everything written, every new story, is derived from something that has come before it. Your story is the heroes journey, it’s about death, love, taxes, or some other constant in the world, and all the stories about those things have been told.
I think the idea that all the stories have been told is false, but I’ll explain what I mean with that later. First, let’s break down the idea of a story a little bit. A story tells something as we follow a character or characters around and see how they interact with the world that they have been placed. These stories generally boil down to a handful of concepts, dealing with death, love, overcoming a monster, rags to riches, and a few more. So it might be correct to say that all the stories have been told, once the seven or so different basic plots have been told, is there a need for more or a need for something new.
Now, obviously I’ve already stated that I think this answer is yes. There is a need for more things to be written, having a few basic plots and stories with those plots is nice, and they can help ground your work as you realize what type of story you are trying to tell, but there’s more to a story than just a basic plot. There are several reasons why all the stories haven’t been told and even if the basic plots have been told a million times before, there are reasons to keep writing them.
The story you are telling is yours. This first reason is one of the biggest to keep writing a story with a plot that has been done before. You are writing a story in the way that only you could tell that story. I couldn’t write the same story that you are writing, you couldn’t write the same story that I might write. That’s because every single human being is shaped differently from any other human. You might have grown up in a very liberal or conservative town, you might have grown up in an urban area or in a rural area, you might like spaghetti and not chocolate. Some of these things might be bigger in shaping you, but everything about you shapes the story that you are telling. For that reason, whatever you write is going to be uniquely you. It is going to be a voice that is written in a unique way that can only be written by you.
The story you are telling is not yours. Now, this clearly contradicts the first point. But I’d argue that both of them are true. While the story you are writing can only be written by you, you are not writing it only for you. Now, maybe it is a story that is never published and only you ever read it, but you are still not just writing it only for you. You are writing it to release it from you and to send it out into the world on it’s own. Even if that world is just the hard drive of your computer, when the words are down on the paper, they are separate from you. This id a difficult process a lot of the time, you want your story to be yours and to have everyone see it the way that you did. If you get the chance to put something out there, people are going to read it differently than you thought they would. I’m going to repeat that, other people are going to read your writing differently than you intended. And that is great. Go back to the first point that I made about why you should write, the same is true for the reader, everyone comes from a different spot. However, people reading it differently is a good thing. These people are getting something out of your story that is meaningful to them that they might not have gotten out of any story, even if it isn’t what you had thought it would be. That is another reason to tell a story, even if the plot has already been done before.
Stories have a time and place. While there are some stories that hold up to the test of time, Lord of the Rings for example, or are at least considered classics that people should read, there are a lot of stories that don’t. Twenty years from now, heck, even now, people aren’t talking about Dan Brown and his literary prowess. That’s because he isn’t a good writer, and while I would argue that his books haven’t impacted anyone deeply, I do think that people read his writing and most likely it’s encouraged some people to take up writing. The hope, always, is to write the next Lord of the Rings that stands the test of time, but if you don’t, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have written it. There are certain books that will hold a place as something important for a given time or a certain place. Even a certain person might be influenced by your book. So while there are great books out there in every plot, if you adhere to the basic 7 plots, there is a time and a place for what you might be writing. And it is a way that you can hit on something for a certain time or place that a classic couldn’t because they aren’t part of that time or place.
Finally, Every Story is Unique. This ties back into a number of the other things, in particular the first one, but I wanted to talk about it in a different light. While your story might be about love, there’s never been a story written about the alien race of the Snarblax who are looking to conquer the universe in hopes of finding their supreme leaders true love who the oracle computer of the Bathari planet calculated must be out there. Sure, the story is about finding love and possibly then losing love, but everything else about it is uniquely mine. The places, people, and things of the world are uniquely yours, and that is why 200 people can be finishing up a story on love each day (or whatever numbers might be) and each publishing.A story about love or about death could be fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, alternate reality, a mystery, thriller, horror, romance, and each one of those is different from the other.
So, has every plot been written, sure? If you subscribe to there being seven unique plots, they have all been written. But the story that you are telling is uniquely yours and deserves to be told. Don’t feel like it might be redundant or that it might not matter, whatever story you write, no matter how long or short will impact someone, even if it is just yourself getting the idea down onto the paper, it will shape who you are for the future.
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