There was a night at work, not too long ago, where everyone I came across had a divorce story or a child custody battle to tell me about. (My cousin is going through something like that right now.) I have heard all about ex-husbands and wives, favorite dog breeds, the trouble with banks, what milk tastes best, health issues, money issues…you name it.
The thing is, even though the faces change and the details differ, the story remains the same. People tell me about heartbreaks, about joys, about pain and sadness. Sometimes the story isn’t spoken in words. Sometimes the words just frame the story, like the story of loneliness. Loneliness usually starts out with “When my kids were young…” or “When my wife was still alive…” The beginnings aren’t always the same but the core of the story is.
That is why they say everything has already been written. Everyone has the same stories, they are just colored by our point of view. That is a good thing. The common thread joins us together. It is what makes people focus on stories. The voice telling the story gives it enough separation from what we already know to make interesting.
When writing, the “originality” of the tale doesn’t matter as much as the voice we tell it in. A college student, a widow, and a cat lady have all experienced loneliness. It is the voice of the person telling of the experience that makes it different.