I was reflecting the other day on something my publisher told me. They said my novel, Aure, the Topaz, was unlike anything else on the market. I said I know, that was my plan all along to write something original and unique. But then I got to thinking, does originality mean success? Does it translate into sales?
Oh, sure we prize the original ideas in our society and try to encourage them but the sad truth is something original can fail just as easily as something that is not. And conversely, we seem more interested in sequels to original movies than the original ones. Toy Story 3 comes to mind here. So do all the vampire novels and TV shows. Or the zombie stories. How many times do I need to read about mindless undead that walk the earth? And yet many of these sell and sell well. This is original turned on its head.
So when I look back at my novel I am ambivalent. I want it to do well and I want to be original, but these two things seem to be at odd. And yet if examine my novel I see it comprises ideas from the many other sources. For example, the elves are very much like Tolkien elves. I introduced a twist dividing them along political lines, but they are not solely my idea.
The humans are a composite from historical sources and from books I've read. For example, the order of St. Michael is out of the Deryni novels from Katherine Kurtz. My treatment is very different but the idea came from her books. Likewise, the basic plot: valuable item is stolen and must be recovered, has been used many times in many other stories. So what makes my novel original?
Well, for one thing, I have characters unlike any others I'm aware of. Daniel, the Qua'ril master, is one example. Elven martial arts is my idea. The bard, James, is pulled largely from my experiences. In fact all the main characters are pulled from me in some way. But they are unique, each one and the mix of characters is unique too. A bard, a fire mage, a demon hunter, an elven archer, and a martial artist.
This is one reason why good characters are so important to the story and why many people choose characters over plot; it is far easier to come up with original characters than an original plot. In fact, I am told, there aren't anymore original plots. I don't know if that's true but there are plenty of original characters.
And so what makes the story work is the interplay of the characters and their reaction to the situation they find themselves in. This is original and fills most of the book.
So will people flock to my book, or any other original novel? I doubt it. Not just because it is original, no. I'm going to have to entice and interest the reader. After all he or she have plenty other novels to pick from. How I do that, aside from the way I've already blogged about, is the subject of another post.