Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Show us YOUR Voice, Not An Imitation

I find myself, far too often, rejecting stories and marking in my log that the reason is "Same Old Same Old." In other words, the author is giving us absolutely nothing new. When I read these proposals, it is almost as if the person has simply copied the story from someone else. Now, please understand, I am not talking about plagiarism here, but simply that the person has just mirrored the voice of so many other stories out there.

Before I go on, let me just say that I am not someone who buys into the theory that there are no new ideas out there. Without new ideas, we would not be advancing in pretty much everything around the world and all that we do. What I am focusing on here, is that authors are struggling to find their own voice, style and story. These are just imitations of things already out there.

There is nothing wrong with utilizing familiar tropes out there when telling your story. Rags to riches, secret babies, cowboys with a past... the list goes on and on. What we are talking about are stories that seem to look like the author has just patched together themes from all of these other authors.

I really see this with authors who want to write series novels such as those you would find at Harlequin. We are not looking for stories that are formulaic and just duplicate what has already been done. We want something that fits the same theme of the line, but for the author to throw his or her own twist on the story. I always try to describe this as having one foot in the old and one foot in the new. Tap into those tropes but give us the spin we haven't seen.

If you want to see some great twists on this, take a look at the writing of Helen Lacey and Ryshia Kennie. When you read these authors, you get a sense that these people have found a way to maintain their own voices, provide unique spins on familiar tropes, and always keep you guessing.

If, when you are writing your synopsis or query letter and find that as you tell the story, you seem, to be talking about someone else's book, but have simply changed the names, then you are falling into this trap.

To fix this situation requires planning before you write. Obviously, this requires thinking about your plot. Know where you are going and why you are doing so. But the bigger twist is, when you add plot devices into the story, know the reason you are doing so and what the impact is on your plot, story and character. If you are simply adding things to your story because someone told you to do so, or this is what you have seen other people do, the odds are you are heading into the direction of an imitation.

In other words, THINK as you write!

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