I’ve heard fiction writers say they worry that they’re writing the same story over and over, just changing the names, the locations, and the situations. They say they worry they’re becoming one-liners, that their work is unoriginal and that they might as well be using cookie-cutters to write their stories.
I’ve had these worries myself. A lot of ideas for novels I have sound very similar if you look at them from certain angles. I’ve gone on thought trains that go something like this: “Oh, this story’s heroine reminds me of this heroine from another story…and she reminds me of another heroine…and don’t their stories sound a little similar?…and what about their male counterparts?…oh my God, did I repeat myself?!” Luckily I’ve got so many ideas for stories that I’m sure I can space these similar sounding stories enough so that critics and readers can’t accuse me of being unoriginal. But even if I didn’t have so many ideas, who cares? You can tell so many of the same story and still be successful. Look at Shakespeare! Every tragedy ends up with a ton of blood, every comedy ends up with bad guys getting butts kicked and lovers falling into each others’ arms in comical fashion, and every history…well, it’s history.
But if you still worry that your work is repetitive and just looking like the same old story over again, then don’t despair. Treat it like you do writer’s block–in my case putting the story aside for a couple of weeks and then getting it out again to look it over. In the amount of time that break took up, I’ve probably done a lot of fun things, or read several awesome books and graphic novels, or watched some pretty interesting TV shows or movies. I can add all that I’ve experienced to the story as I go over it and try to find some way to improve it. And if that doesn’t work, try using a random word generator and using three nouns from that generator to help mix up your story (it’s something I learned to do in high school. Thanks Mr. Guinan).
But if you still feel that you’re only repeating yourself, look on the bright side. Most people don’t have the energy or the fortitude to write a full story, even if they are born with the talent to do so. The fact that you can write only one story, you can do a lot more than others. Perhaps you can even make the best version of that story ever written. And isn’t that worth all the repeats over the years?