One of the greatest lessons I was ever taught I learned in the single semester I had at a University. Long story cut short, I began the attempt to turn my Associate’s Degree into a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing, but dropped out to marry my husband and move across the country to begin my life as a military wife. I think it was well worth it.
Anyway, while attending SUNY Oswego, I took a class on the art of writing horror. I managed to weasel my way in after my last minute major change and convinced the head of the department that I had the qualifications for the advanced class and it was one hundred percent worth it.
Early in the class, the professor introduced us to the best question to ask yourself when writing.
How is this new?
These days, we have a plethora of books on the market. Not only are writers getting traditionally published, but they’re also choosing to self publish their stories. This means that not only are the classics roaming around, but there are a great number of other stories all taking up space in the world.
The best way to ensure that your story stands out is to make sure what you’re creating is new to the genre/market.
There is a philosophy roaming around somewhere that all stories ever told stem from a single story. With this idea floating around, it’s hard to imagine how you could make your story different. Yet, this philosophy also makes it a bit easier to understand.
If all stories stem from a single story format or concept, take a look around. There are millions of examples of how others managed to make their story stand out. If everyone else can do it, so can you!
What is your concept?
Take your story and boil it down to a single, marketable concept. Usually, this is something that helps define your genre, like a vampire story, or a romance story. By labeling your story in this regard, you can take a critical look at other stories with the same label.
What makes your story different from the stories on the market? Does your high fantasy include technology? Is your urban fantasy set in a rural area? Are you trying to represent an under-represented culture/race in a genre that needs it?
Take it a step further and try to change a few more elements within the story so that it becomes a creature unlike the books it stands next to. Break genre expectations, bend them here and there, or completely mix and redefine them if you feel the need to.
What are your tropes?
A trope is something commonly used within writing. This could be something like the YA love triangle or the broody vampire. A large number of people like to employ tropes to help build their story, but you don’t need to use a cookie cutter when making them.
A great trope is one with a twist. What can you add to or subtract from a trope that makes it seem like a fresh idea?
This can be something like making one part of the love triangle a ghost. Clearly, there’s little action to be had there. The broody vampire can actually have depression or a social disorder and common medication might not affect his undead body anymore. Take the trope you want to use and start molding it into your own device.
Use this list of links to help find the tropes you might want to use for your story.
A great place to find fun twists and ideas like these can be Tumblr and Pinterest. People will post ideas on Tumblr and other bloggers will add to it what they’d like to read. A lot of times, these Tumblr posts are screenshotted and shared to Pinterest as graphics that can be saved. Keep an eye out for them because they can be idea gold mines straight from the readers themselves.
Before you write anything, the best question you can ask is: How is this new?