Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Think About Opposites
One of my recent blogs talked about how much fiction is out there and the tough time readers having choosing what to read.
There may be more books on the shelves these days, but original ideas are still hard to come by. I see a lot of story proposals, but too often I see the same predictable occupations, settings, conflicts, and solutions to problems.
I just told an author recently about seeing a lot of stories using children who either run away from home or get lost and need to be hunted down. Authors use this as a catalyst for the hero and heroine to be brought together. I’ve also seen several cases where a hero gets in an accident toward the end of the book and this makes either the hero or heroine realize that life is too short for them to stay apart any longer.
I think authors need to brainstorm deeper. Don’t settle for the first thing that comes to mind—because it has likely been done before. Look for the opposite of your knee jerk reaction to find the most unexpected scenario.
Say you want to do a story about crossing the ocean to a new country over 100 years ago. Does it have to be a European coming to America? Think the opposite of your first reaction. What about an American going to England and trying to fit into London society?
Want to write about a preacher? Most preachers live and work in small-town America. What about putting your preacher on a college campus? The dynamics and problems of a campus church would look very different from those in a small-town church and create interesting new conflicts.
Want to set your story during a war? Your young hero would likely be a soldier—or would he? Consider the opposite case and have him either be unable to serve due to health or as an objector of some form. Why would he object—political, religious, etc? What conflicts does his position raise among his community (even in his family) against those in authority, etc.?
There is value in meeting with friends in brainstorming sessions. Sometimes a friend who doesn’t have the skill or interest in actual writing can still have a very broad and active imagination that can help you probe the “what if” scenarios.
Just be sure when brainstorming among other authors that you set up an agreement about who “owns” the ideas that come out of each session and who has the right to run with them in a story. Do this before any ideas start to flow. Ideas can’t be copyrighted, but you can create a snake’s pit of hurt feelings if an author feels an idea of his or hers was taken and published by another author from the brainstorming session without their “permission.”
What is the most original story content that you’ve seen lately in a new book release?
Editor Du Jour Becky