One of the most important things to being a writer is to constantly be learning, and that means constantly be reading good books. For us this is one of the best parts of the job and at times the most abused parts of the jobs. But the best way to get better at writing and storytelling (and I’ve learned this multiple times at school and in my own studies), is to read-read-read. Read fantasy books! Read romance books! Read murder mystery, inspirational, young adult, western–read all kinds of books, including technical non-fiction that will help you learn more about writing. The reason it is suggested that one reads all kinds of genres and not just the one they are interested in is because its a great way to learn and get unique ideas for the genre you are reading. I hate to say this, but you’re not going to get very unique ideas for a fantasy novel while reading Lord of the Rings. Reading a deranged crime book, on the other hand, and oh the possibilities of what you could steal! And since your readers read nothing but fantasy most likely (and sit in their parents’ basement and play Warhammer), they’ll foam with ecstasy and curiosity as to where you got your brilliant ideas.
That leads into the real point to this writing tidbit. It is a skill that will help you to kill cliche and come up with original ideas in a world where originality is both praised and hoped for, for many believe that originality is dead. Fellow peers in writing, this skill is an ancient and powerful technique used by even Shakespeare himself. It can be summed up in this sentence. But with this sentence you may be able to write unique, original stories. It is:
Learn to become a thief of ideas.
Great creative artists are really just great thieves. They know what to steal and how to twist it to their own means. Where the originality comes in is when you twist the idea to your own story and style. How do you steal ideas you say? Well, first you do what I have stated in the first paragraph–read EVERYTHING. Watch movies, watch animes, watch cartoons–stuff yourself with stories. All the while let your mind run wild in search for ideas that you could steal. (If it helps you can even wear a black ski-mask while you do it.) Then, once you have extracted an idea from your unfortunate literary victim, twist it. Through your own spice in it. Change the ending, screw with the beginning, switch some gender roles–have fun tearing it apart. Then steal some more and throw the scraps of other ideas in to give your new Frankenstein some add ons. Then, with a bolt of hard work and a bit of crazed creative fun, shock that mismatched corpse and bring that puppy–your new original creation—to life. You will find your readers surprised at the unique take of your story and asking where you got the ideas. In that moment, you are allowed to scream IT LIIIIIIIVVVESSS!!!
I have practiced this myself and found it to be very true. I have published a few stories online just to get feedback from people so I can study what people want and what makes a story so attractive to the majority. Many reviews I got were, “Oh my gosh, where did you get the idea for this? It’s so unique! I love it!” I just snicker in my chair as I recall my heist and give them mysterious smiles. We artists really are quite devilish, you know.
Austin Kleon wrote a short book called ‘Steal Like an Artists’ that is very helpful if you would like more information on this. It’s a fairly cheap book too at about $7 new. You can probably find it for cheaper, but he goes into depth on this idea–including more information on just exactly how to do it. Give it a whirl! Got out with the true mind of an artist and steal ideas shamelessly.
Now, a word of clarification: that does not mean you copy and paste other people’s writing and then throw in a few words of your own. That’s copyright infringement, lazy, and absolutely no fun. But I figured you already knew that. We are well read people, and all.