As I mentioned earlier, there are roughly 100 billion and 2 amateur writers in the world.
398 million of these are people who write science fiction and fantasy, and every single one of them is telling the same story over and over and over.
Isn’t that odd? Ok my numbers might be a little exaggerated, but I think I’m right that most amateur writers out there found a story they really liked – someone else’s story – and they’re just repeating it – rewriting again and again stories that have already been made into books, movies, tv shows, plays, video games, facebook apps, and dungeons and dragons scripts.
So why do so many of us feel so compelled to keep retelling these same stories over and over again?
Particularly – why do we feel compelled to do this when most of us don’t really want to read anyone else’s amateur stuff?
What’s wrong with us?
It would be easy to tell some plausible story about evolution and the value we gained as a species through learning to share information. Ethically, you can see that being able to enter emotionally into other people’s stories and find them compelling probably helped us become more cooperative creatures.
But why fiction? Why does being moved by fiction compel us so deeply to tell imaginary tales of our own?
My theory – and let’s be clear, this is based on nothing but wild speculation – but my theory is that our primary impulse is not to create a new story but to retell one that moved us. I believe that most amateur writers are doing this, deliberately or not.
They don’t want to tell a new story. They want to relive a powerful experience.
The problem, of course, is that those of us looking for something good to read want something new. We don’t want a second rate retelling of a story we’ve already heard a hundred times.
So our impulse to repeat stories (possibly rooted in our evolution, I speculate again without basis) drives the massive quantities of amateur writing out there.
But those people who want to stand out in the crowd and find a new audience must fight this impulse to retell in order to find something new to say.
Because readers don’t want to read the same story over and over again. We want to experience something new and powerful, something that catches our attention in the din of the trillions of stories out there.