Writers are often overwhelmed with story ideas. When I’m in the middle of difficult revisions, it’s normal for me to think of several other shiny ideas that I would much rather work on instead of doing yet another round of edits. But not every idea is worthy of a story, so how do we decide which ones deserve our limited writing time?
Last time, I introduced the idea of the story “seed” and the emotional heart of the story. My first tip was to compare the two and see how well they’re connected. We’re more likely to finish writing our idea to the very end if the initial story seed gives us a shiver and ignites a passion to tell the tale.
For today’s tip, I want to talk about uniqueness and whether or not your story has a point. After all, if the idea has already been done, why spend your time on it unless you can bring something new to the story?
How Unique Is the Story Idea?
Or perhaps I should say, “how unique is the idea?”, as this concept also applies to non-fiction. I run into this issue all the time when I brainstorm my blog posts. How many hundreds of posts are out there about query letters, or synopses, or just about anything you can think of?
In other words, there aren’t a whole lot of new ideas under the sun. I don’t see the point in rehashing what’s already out there, so I post on topics only if/when I have something new to add—a new observation, a new approach, a new depth, a new something.
The same goes for fiction. Boy meets girl has been done a bazillion times, so what makes your take on the idea new and different?
Does the Story Have a Point?
If it weren’t for the Dr. Suess story, would anyone ever want to make green eggs and ham? Sure it’s something different, but if you ask me, that picture above looks kind of gross.
The same goes for stories, even with a unique idea, it still might not be worth a story if it doesn’t have a point. I could write Wizard of Oz from the point-of-view of the wizard. That would be different, right?
Okay, but why? What would I be trying to say with the story? What insight or observation would I be able to make about life, humanity, or the original story from that viewpoint?
This reason doesn’t have to be deep, and it doesn’t have to be unique. The theme of many romance stories is the same: Love conquers all. Many authors of all genres tend to write stories with a similar theme over and over. But if you pair that message with a unique vehicle for expressing the idea, then you have a potential story.
According to my contest feedback (“This is the most unique premise I’ve ever seen”), my story ideas are different from anything else out there . I think that’s a good sign, or possibly, it’s a sign of my insanity. I prefer to take it as a the former.
My problem is that when the emotional heart isn’t connected to the story seed, I have a harder time identifying the point or theme of the idea. I like to know the point of the story before I start writing so I know I’m not wasting my time with something that’s going to wander aimlessly and never get anywhere. Then again, I’m not a pure-blooded pantser. Others might be fine with discovering the point as they go.
How do you come up with unique ideas? Or do you struggle with how to make your ideas different enough? Do you usually write with a point in mind? Or do you discover the theme as you write?Pin It