Westward, and over the Edge of the World!

If you grew up anywhere they taught world history, you know who Christopher Columbus was.  He was the inspired guy with the three boats, who was assigned the title of “nutty navigator” by everyone who knew him.  

220px-Christopher_ColumbusOkay, maybe I have no way of knowing that for sure, but it’s an accurate guess.  Now, Columbus wasn’t a nut because he thought the world was round.  Contrary to popular belief, the people of medieval and ancient times were well aware of the circular aspect of our planet.  Some of them even proved it mathematically.  Also, try telling ANY sailor that the world is flat and he will laugh until he falls overboard and drowns because he forgot to take the optional swimming lessons the captain offered to first-time sailors. 

No, Columbus was a nut because he thought he could sail AROUND the world to get to a place everyone already knew how to to get to.  Sure, the existing route was pretty dangerous and long, but hey, no pain, no gain.  Basically, his idea was the equivalent of a modern person deciding to find a route to China from the U.S by tunneling through the earth.  Possible, but completely laughable. 

But something everybody (including his backers) missed.  Columbus set out to find a new way to somewhere he already knew how to get to.  Think about that.  A NEW way.  What does “new” mean?  Here, it means “never before seen, never before used, never before found”.  He decided to try an original, stunningly brilliant, utterly preposterous method of getting to the East.  A destination to which hundreds had already traveled. 

Think about that for a minute.

No.  REALLY think about that.

This blog is for writers and readers.

To YOU, of all people, Columbus’ example should call to you, probably through a bull-horn or some sort of mental PA system.

He took a new, unknown route to a known destination.

If you haven’t figured out what I’m saying, you should probably leave now.  The obviousity (yes, new word) of what I’m saying will probably hurt when I explain it.

Good old Cristoforo Columbo should be a glowing example to writers.  In today’s world, it’s incredibly difficult to create a COMPLETELY original plot for your story.  Hundreds of others have probably come up with something so similar it could make you cry.  But, as a poet once said “it’s not the destination, but the journey”.  This is so true, it’s hard to completely grasp it.  Columbus made his destination the East; on his journey, he made what is possibly the greatest find a European has ever made.  He discovered the Americas and returned to tell the tale.

As writers, we should pick our destinations.  Then, as explorers, we should choose completely new, crazy routes to them.  With a lot of work, and a little luck, we’ll drift across something nobody else has ever glimpsed through the imaginary telescope of the imagination. 

What are you waiting for?  Up anchor.  Raise a paper sail to catch a fanciful wind and sail off to unknown lands on sea of swirling ink.

3 thoughts on “Westward, and over the Edge of the World!

  1. Excellent post! I have lost count of how many times I’ve “invented” what I believed to be a new, original idea, only to discover that someone’s already come up with it independently of me. It’s embarrassing for me sometimes, especially because I try to avoid cliche (or in general, commonly used/overused ideas) like the plague.

    But as the saying goes, great minds think alike. No matter how hard we try, people are always going to come up with the same ideas, often unknowingly and independently of each other, like Calculus. Here, it’s not about who unwittingly “plagiarized” whom. It’s how one applies their originality to the idea that makes a piece notable and unique. (Of course, that doesn’t guarantee which piece popular culture will deem fit to be adapted into a movie or otherwise heavily monetized, but that’s for another day. 🙂 )

    P.S. What if people patented their storylines so nobody else could take them? Like, if Stephanie Meyer patented the overall gist of Twilight (i.e. teenage human girl falls madly in love with paranormal humanoid), or Suzanne Collins patented overall gist The Hunger Games? Might that have prevented a lot of the apparent trends in teen fiction today? I’m not saying doing something like that a good idea; rather, it’s just one way (albeit an unpleasant one) that authors would be forced to come up with 100% original ideas!

    • Glad you liked it so much. 🙂

      In regards your P.S, patenting…. yikes. Frankly, I think it would be a terrible idea. Rather than fostering originality, I think it would destroy writing. Neither Ms. Meyer nor Ms. Collins came up with the basic ideas for their books. Those plots have been around for decades, if not centuries. It was their style and their method that made their books unique. 😉

  2. I love this post! Yep it’s hard to find a 100% original plot, but I’ve read some really awesome books that new ways of telling them! We pick up so much from what we see & read it’s bound to have an effect on who we are. Also what we write, if that is our hoped for career!! 🙂

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