Thursday, April 9, 2015

How to Have Originality

by Charis Joy Jackson

                       “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality 
          will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring two 
            pence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become 
                                           original without ever having noticed it.”
                                                                                                                    - C.S. Lewis

I want to be original.

Who doesn’t?

As an artist, I paint pictures with words and words are awesome. They invoke emotions and take us on wild adventures through time, space and alternate realities.

They remind us of what’s important.

Sometimes, though, those words seem traitorous. My magical fingers will weave a tale and lo and behold when I read back my masterpiece I discover something. It’s not original. The story’s already been told.


Once, I created this character who was sure to warm the readers’ hearts. He was a doctor, or in his world a “healer”. He was a small character, but still needed the perfect name, so I popped over to one of my favourite writing resources and found one so perfect it actually meant “healer”. About a month later I picked up a book by one of my favourite authors and discovered he had used the same name!

Not just that, but the character was the same. EXACTLY.


I was crushed. If I ever got it published it’d look like I’d stolen the character.

After beating my head against the wall for a bit I came to another conclusion. I was growing as a writer. If I could come up with a great character, like my favourite author, then I’d come up with more. Yes. Success.

I also discovered the quote above.

Personally, I believe the fear of not being original lays at the foundation of writers block. Think about it. How many times have you opened a fresh document and instead of filling it with all the goodness waiting inside your head, you just stare at it?

Stop staring!

Each of us are an original and so are our stories.

How about we take the lead from our good friend Clive and say, “I don’t care two pence how often it has been told before. I’m still gonna tell it!”

Now stop reading this. Go write.

Charis Joy Jackson is working as a missionary with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) a non-profit organization & is part of The Initiative Production Company. She loves creating stories & is currently writing a novel, which she hopes to create into a seven part series.

Here's to a life lived in awe & wonder.
Welcome to the adventure.


  1. Hi Charis
    Thanks for your post. They say great minds think alike :) It's not surprising that others may have come up with similar ideas. Like you I've found similarities to my own writing in already published books and it can be disconcerting. Some theorists say there is only one (Joseph Campbell) or seven (Christopher Booker) plots - but we can still put our individual spin on them. Great words - "go write" :)

  2. Hi Charis,
    I have also read books that have similar ideas to my own, especially in plot. I am encouraged by your suggestion that it means we are growing as writers. Thanks for your encouragement to overcome the fear and just write!

  3. Really enjoyed reading this, Charis--thank you. I love that C S Lewis quote. And yes, while I do think we have to be aware what books similar to ours are already out there, there will be enough dissimilarities too in that we have all that goodness that you talk about, Charis, waiting in our own heads too that nobody else can express in the same way we can.

  4. Charis, you're not alone with the hunt for names! I have been more than halfway through a novel only to decide my character must have a name change.( Or was it my character not budging until I did?)

    As for similar plots, we can usually work out our own outcome and the means by which we get there in a totally different way. Knowing our characters' goals and the motivation behind those goals, always lights the way ahead.

  5. That was a great quote by C.S. Lewis - one which I hadn't read before. Yes, we all want to be original don't we? I guess like the quote suggests - we need to follow our muse - and without too much struggle we will each be unique - after all it's God's Holy Spirit within us who leads us Christian writers. Thanks for your interesting post Charis and all the best with your writing.

  6. Thanks Charis, an encouraging post. :) I once had a friend ask me to read their newly written, historically based, completely original and movie-length script. A few months later it appeared at the movies. These things happen I guess! And no writing is without purpose, even if it is just learning the craft.

  7. Thanks everyone, I'm glad you were encouraged/ challenged or that you could relate to my post. It's all about the journey, eh and getting to do that with God is just the best!

  8. Hi Charis,
    Thanks for this (dare I say original) post. Your thoughts make me remember all the ideas about a collective unconsciousness lecturers were putting forth at Uni. Heartbreaking, what happened to you, but I love the quotes from Lewis inspiring us to keep going anyway.