The Roots of Originality


There is a burgeoning industry of formulaic fiction. Some is easy to pick out; fiction I wrote because I’m a fan and fiction pretty much like another book but just different enough come to mind. With experience you see it for what it is. When that happens, your appetite for the trite dulls.

Aristotle lauds originality. He’s every right to as his Poetics does a sterling job of analysing creative literature which consisted then of poetry, plays and Homer. In doing this he tells us what distinguishes the lesser works from the greater. The Poetics also provides a template for analysing most (maybe all) fiction since. Yet all we have of this work is working notes. The translation of Aristotle’s work that I’ve encountered is flawed to such a point that you are unlikely to make headway with it unless you actually write.
Plato on the other hand would have consigned poets and playwrights to the pit. he doesn’t expound in a single work, rather, to see what he finds objectionable in poetry and plays, the disparate works: Ion, The Republic (books II, III, X), Gorgias, & Phaedrus need to be checked out. He makes points in keeping with the balance of his philosophy.
I’ve been partial to Plato and Aristotle over the years. Both views are still fundamental to how we see literature and art. They have become part of our landscape, yet neither expounded their respective positions satisfactorily.

It’s been over two decades since I dipped into SF / Fantasy with any real enthusiasm, but like an unreformed addict, I persist in reading stuff that the first paragraph – or sentence – warns of what lies ahead. Translation: the bar is higher because I’ve read a lot of it.
If there was more originality out there, I wouldn’t write. I crave variation, relief to a jaundiced palate.


My office move is done; my car is consigned to the junk yard in the sky (no replacement in sight); I’ve more or less finished my accounts and finally got back online. The interregnum is over (for me anyway).

However the hiatus has taken a month out of my life and writing has ground to a halt. At the beginning of November I began Harjazes. I did little more than 8,000 words, most of which was produced early in the month. The story is essentially half finished. I’ve had sufficient feedback to know it’s passed muster for atmosphere. On that score at least, a success.

My writing pattern requires a few days of thinking and planning to get back up to full speed. Ultimately however, launching myself in an attempt to catch up & finish it off, would be futile. Christmas is nearly on us and then the New Year, during which period the creative motor will be idle. Rather than waste effort, I’ve decided to look at projects on the go and see which of them might spark my interest enough to pick up and run with in the New Year.

To get my thinking juices into gear, I’ve tabulated some story starts below. For each start there’s date of idea, title, genre, a few words to describe what I had in mind and word count if any.

06/12/09 The Last Human 0 words Science Fiction

A woman watches her children; they have somehow become like everyone else, post-human, and are strangers to her now. She is the last human.

08/10/10 Winter in Alexandria 1,900 words History

Three Roman Legions have been slaughtered at Teutoburger Wald. Alexandria is still the jewel in the crown of the Greek speaking world. Isa is about to embark on a journey over the Euxine Sea to Theodosia

11/11/11 The Last Library 3,400 words Post Urban

Beneath the ground, far under the detritus of time lies the forgotten bastion of civilisation and its most treasured possession the last library.

05/03/12 Tidal 0 words Post Urban

It’s the near future, the wells of the deep have opened.

15/11/12 Derelict 4,900 words Science Fiction

The British Empire has reformed in all but name – as UK-WorldGov. It has somehow acquired star drive technology and the Matter Grabba is sent on it’s first mission; to a dark matter galaxy. It finds a derelict spaceship….

25/11/12 Brant, A Fantasy 22,500 words Heroic Fantasy

Brant has left his home in the valley realm of Flotyn Bryn-i-Gwyn, for it now lies under the heavy hand of the augeruch. Away Brant, away. Go east; through the lowlands of Lagelan, the northland steppes; the mountain holds of the mughite where the Khaifite in exile dwells and even to the fabled city of Hrim. Live elsewhere and learn a trade, for the augeruch cannot be fought alone.
Orby is a small town nestling at the edge of Brychon Woods. Princess Aralie is prisoner there and bands of mercenaries lie in wait, hoping to capture her. A knight errant approaches. It’s Brant. He’s looking for hero work. Simple?
Brychon Woods are said to be the haunt of night-frights and soul-bleeds. Brant comes from a long settled place and considers such talk to be moonshine and fantasy. Then he meets Ysarie, a seductive young woman. But is everything as it seems?
These events are strangely paralleled in the ancient city of Turalam.

18/12/12 Cinderpeppi 350 words Pantomime

A princess is beguiled by the streetwise chat of Cinderpeppi. Four months later she must find the father of her unborn baby or lose her inheritance.

23/01/13 The Central Sea 8,700 words Historical

Three friends survive a Mediterranean storm, only to be attacked by Corsairs. Separated for years, they eventually meet again. Life as a slave of the Corsairs changes many things, even friendships.

05/02/13 The Faery Bower 750 words Fantasy

A fairy seduces a village boy and gets pregnant.

08/04/13 Lucky 5,800 words Science Fiction

Lucky, a refugee alien, has escaped the destruction of her race. Once of the flowing people she believes them long gone. The star civilisation of the flowing people was destroyed by the measuring people. Both civilisations were based in the galactic core – she has been so long in suspended animation that the stars she knew are old, dying and faded and the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way has become gigantic. She is Lucky to be still alive. In the constellation locally known as Orion’s Belt, she stumbles across a primitive interstellar probe.

16/04/13 A Sending 200 words High Fantasy

Deep in tractless forests, two malicious orbs of light are disturbed by seekers. Do the seekers know what is likely to happen?

16/04/13 McNulty 400 words Exploration

A big, brash explorer abandons his party in his lust for treasure.

16/05/13 After School 2,750 words Post Urban

England has changed, government institutions have been closed and its workers made redundant. They walk the motorway networks looking for work and a place to accept them.

04/06/13 Asimov 3 2,000 words Science Fiction

Robots from outer space find a new system; Sol. They blend in with the locals to find what’s worth looting.

17/09/13 Erisse of the Illany 675 words Fantasy / Horror

Erisse was my lover but I murdered her. Trouble is, she is of the Illany and she’s come back from the dead to claim me.

20/09/13 Alibi 3,000 words Detective

A good deed, done for selfish reasons but good still the same, changed my life. I’m an OpEd. What’s one of them? Find out.

06/10/13 Without Question 6,300 words Crime / Sex

I wake up. The #!#*$ has been kicked out of me. Eventually I discover I’m in one of the Concession Cities. That’s a long way from home.

01/11/13 Harjazes 9,400 words Detective

I live in in the Appalachian township of Lellegheny and work for myself, at least that’s what I tell my clients. Sometimes though, you have to work for the town and the good of everyone. One day Maude Dimling came along. Little did I know where the case of her missing husband would lead.


Most of these will turn out novella sized. Brant has all but surpassed that and will be a full blown novel. Incidentally Brant is written as largely self-contained chapters as is The Central Sea and Alibi. Some stories are little more than ideas e.g. The Last Human, Tidal and anything under 1,000 words.

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About Terence Park

Collections: vinyl records, comic books, paperbacks; I've plenty of them all. I also do spreadsheets.
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