Last week, I found myself in a painting class. Now, let me tell you, this was a bit of a surprise for me. When I signed up for something called Wine & Palette, I assumed I’d be eating gourmet food and drinking delicious alcohol. I’m pretty good at those things. Instead, I found myself decked out in a smock and holding a paintbrush, reliving the nightmare of my college art class (my lowest grade in four years of undergrad and two years of graduate education).
Our task was to follow the instruction of a talented local artist in painting our own rendition of “Fiery Sunset.” I started off okay, but by the time it came to paint mountains, my lack of talent and confidence (and perhaps the two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc) were getting the better of me. Result? I have a sunset that is sliding off the canvas.
But one thing that struck me in my slightly fuzzy daze was the difference between all those fiery sunsets. Some of the painters had more talent than others (I, obviously, fall in the “others” category), but every single painting, although similar, was vastly different. No two people created the exact same piece of art.
Writing is like that. How many novels featuring vampires are out there? Let me tell you, tons. Dystopian? Tons. Zombies? Plenty of those too. Romance with a billionaire? Yep. But no two stories are alike.
Sure, there are similarities (vampires suck blood, dystopian societies just suck, zombies are notoriously violent, and billionaires are arrogant a**holes). But the stories start in various places, follow different paths, and take interesting twists to get to their endings. The personality, beliefs, and creativity of the author is expressed in a unique way. It’s quite something to witness.
So yes, although an author shouldn’t go down the same path as everyone else, any concept–wizard schools, vampire love, dystopian societies, etc.–has room for more exposition. You just have to make it sing a completely different tune–your own.