In Jilly’s Sunday post, we had a great discussion about what catches your attention when reading about a new book and what causes you to say thanks-but-no-thanks.
In the name of research (I couldn’t possibly have been looking for more books to add to my TBR pile), I logged on to BookBub and read the blurbs for a vast number of books trying to clearly identify my try-this-book triggers. I’m still trying to nail that down because I got distracted along the way by the basic plots that I saw over and over.
I started keeping track (in a spreadsheet, of course).
Of the 100+ titles I read through, these plots were the most popular:
- Trying to break free from a dark /troubled childhood/past and discover love
- Former sweethearts/exes/ childhood friends meet again
- Forced into marriage / marriage of convenience / mail-order bride finds love
- Governess / caretaker / nanny falls for the boss
I even noticed one or two where I thought “hmm, that sounds like what I’m writing.” It reminded me of the observation, generally attributed to John Gardner, that there are only two plots: A stranger rides into town and A man goes on a journey.
I thought about that while I considered moving to a small town, since they are apparently rife with old boyfriends, childhood sweethearts, and handsome neighbors. If plots are not unique, then what differentiates one book from another? If I read a dozen marriage of convenience stories, will they all be the same?
Well, of course not.
The authors may all have started with the same basic plot, but each will have put their own spin on it. Their characters, delivery, style, and a host of other things will be different resulting in stories that, though they may have a common thread, are unique.
“Don’t worry about being original. Originality is overrated. The one thing that’s unique about your story is that you’re the one writing it. Your voice is the original thing.” ~ Chuck Wendig
Honing your craft and voice, making sure that the story you are telling is one that only you can tell, is what makes your writing stand out from anything else out there that might have a similar plot.
What the individual writer brings to the story is something that I’ve been thinking about this week as I anxiously await the RWA Golden Heart entries that I’ll be judging.
“But I do crave an original telling—one of our shared stories done again, ablaze with new detail.” ~ David Long titled “Notes from a Contest Judge”
Like the Contest Judge above, I’ll be keeping an eye out as I read for original telliings and new details. If I’m lucky, the process may trigger some creative thinking of my own.
“Original minds are not distinguished by being the first to see a new thing, but instead by seeing the old, familiar thing that is overlooked as something new.” Friedrich Nietzsche
In my own writing, no matter what type of story I’m telling, sarcasm and a bit of dark humor always seem to come through. What have you noticed that is “uniquely you” in your own writing or “uniquely them” in some of the authors you’ve read?