Did you know there are only seven stories in the world? Some would claim there are even less, but it has been acknowledged there are seven basic paths that a plot will follow in a story. These are put simply:
- man against man.
- man against nature.
- man against himself.
- man against God.
- man against society.
- man caught in the middle.
- man and woman.
To build on that, Christopher Booker defined them as:
- Overcoming the Monster
- Rags to Riches
- The Quest
- Voyage and Return
So, there is no surprise when people are accused of copying a style. ‘Oh , that’s just Romeo and Juliet in Brighton…’
Now, I haven’t been compared directly to a person in that manner (or at least, nobody has told me directly!). The nearest was someone relating the pace of the novel ‘Forest Brothers’, to John Buchan – he of the Richard Hannay novels. The analogy was that the pace was fast, thus I didn’t dwell on the descriptions, leading the reader to create their own images of the character. Bar a few necessary pointers, of course. If he has lost an arm, I will tell you – you never know, it might be relevant somewhere later on. A writer friend once had a pop at me when I submitted a piece for critique ‘Don’t tell me he’s 6ft 2. He’s not, he’s 5ft 8. I’m the reader. It’s my universe.’ Fair point, well made.
‘The Turn of the Wheel’ is the story of a young lead miner from his early years at Frongoch lead mine near Aberystwyth. When faced with literature about a Welsh miner in this situation, some would immediately refer to Richard Llewelyn’s 1939 classic ‘How Green was my valley.’ Yes, I have read the work (and the excellent follow-up, dealing with Huw’s emigration to Patagonia). Yes, I have seen the Oscar winning movie, that transplants the dulcet tones of the Rhondda with that of the Emerald Isle. (That part is something I can never get past, I’m afraid.) No, I haven’t decided to rewrite it. The settings are totally different and the colloquial speech is too literally translated. My characters’ dialogue on the page is in English, showing a flavour of the Welsh language they speak. If I did a literal translation, it would sound like Yoda – and that is all to do with structure; the logic and beauty of the language doesn’t earn itself scorn for not being like English.
Authors don’t deliberately set out to copy directly other works. There will always be similarities. There are deaths in my story – there are deaths in ‘How Green was my valley’. That’s normal. People die in mining accidents. They happened all the time in the 19th Century. Bar the fictional characters, all the deaths occurring in that tale are related to actual deaths of people in the mine. It was a risky profession, not unique to fiction.
If there is a particular influencer in my style for the Turn of the Wheel, I would cite the Guernseyman, G B Edwards. He wrote one novel in his life, oh but what a beautiful work it was! The book of Ebenezer le Page, is the story of a Guernseyman’s life from the late 19th century through to the 1960’s. The islands turbulent history is a fantastic backdrop to a lovely story.
If I was asked what influences my writing, I first look at the setting. I want to write a story based in a certain area, and/or profession. I want to include certain events as a background. I want my characters to reach a certain point in the plot and then I just work out how they get there and what happens thereon. It’s a fun journey, full of frustrations and joy and the emotions take hold as I write. I cry a bit during the process; I smile, I get angry. Once, I was writing something that was so dark, I needed to stop as my world was following it down into the depths.
I want my characters to achieve something. I want my audience to learn something and enjoy the story. I want them to be on the same journey, every time they pick up the book. I want them to enjoy the trip as much as I have. Within my creative mind, the plot unfolds. It may be influenced by actual events or similar events from history. It may be influenced by situations or experiences I have had or observed. Subconsciously, it may possibly tap into the thousands of books, films, plays and other tales that have been watched over the 50 plus years of my life. But at the end of the day, it still comes down to me, constructing my own path to telling a tale. And try as I might, it will always fall into one of the seven categories.