Wednesday, March 4, 2009

There are no new stories - NOT

I always have to laugh when I hear comments like this from writers. It always follows when I have made some comment that editors and agents really want to see something new out there. We want unique. And then the comment shows up... "But Scott, there are no unique stories out there. Story tellers just use the same stories over and over again."

Nope, this is far from true. O.K. maybe I need to rephrase that. Good story tellers do not do that, but maybe a lot of writers do that and wonder why their career goes no where or simply dies out.

In reality, this idea stems from a concept in literature that we often call theme. It is the over-all lesson or idea that guides the plot and characters throughout the story. Writers love to return to specific themes in their works because they have a certain attraction to them as either readers or writers. You know these... The Cinderella story, The Horatio Alger Rags to Riches stories, Beauty and The Beast themes, Revenge... I almost said the list was endless but in this case, these deal with human emotions so it is not that endless. We will often find combinations of these story themes though which tends to increase the numbers.

But let me return to the mistake most writers often make. They believe the plots are limitless. This is in no way the case. We can come up with a ton of different plot lines that are unique and have characters and ideas that we haven't seen before. The themes may be the same but the stories are truly different. This is what gets us running after hot stories that we believe to be so unique.

Let me explain another way. The themes to the Twilight stories are the same we have seen time and time again in other teen level books. The twist is that Ms. Myers was finally able to do what people had struggled with for so long. She brought that paranormal vampire twist in. I should note that when we were in Dallas for the RWA Conference (the one with the Mary Kay conference going on), one editor that I respect a great deal was begging for a vampire teen book just like that. Hmmmmm, was Ms. Myers in the room? (another reason for listening to those spotlights).

So, work with theme. Don't just tell the same story over again. Please.


  1. That's what I enjoy about writing -- taking a universal theme and spinning a story around it that highlights a new facet or fresh perspective of that theme. That's where I get to speak my highest truth.

  2. Scott, right on the money, about Twilight, as usual. Same is true for the Harry Potter series. Simple ideas-anyone should have thought of them, but did not. lesson for us all there.They both took such an obvious idea, and made it work beautifully.
    Anon II-what a grim story about Michelle. No surprise. Hig-tech is the money-maker. None in preventitive care, for sure. Very sad.