From my Write Stuff pages . . .
Today's post is mostly aimed at writers, but I hope readers will enjoy a peek into some of the issues writers grapple with as we craft our stories.
When my kids were little, we visited a gem mine. They had a ball picking up moonstones and amethysts right off the ground. Of course, they also picked up rocks that even weeks in a rock tumbler wouldn't turn into anything of value. Only the experienced gemologists could tell the precious from the ordinary with any degree of confidence.
So how do writers decide which ideas are worth developing and which will only wear out the tumbler?
First, make sure your story idea is something that ignites a fire in you. There's no point in writing about time-traveling shape-shifting vampire fighters because you think the market is clamoring for them if YOU aren't excited by them. Lack of passion will shout from your prose so loudly, no one will be able to hear your story.
Don't re-tell stories that have been done to death UNLESS you put an exceedingly fresh spin on it. If you want to do the virgin and the rake, make the guy the virgin. Create characters who are not the usual suspects.
A story thrives on conflict. Make sure the place where your story lives has conflict built into it intrinsically. One of the biggest complaints about romance novels is that the conflicts are contrived or so shallow a simple five minute conversation between the hero and heroine would solve the issue. Make your conflicts matter.
Your story needs two kinds of conflict--internal (problems stemming from personal tension between characters) and external (outside influences-villains, unfortunate events, forces of nature). Remember the conflict must be strong enough to propel you 400 pages.
Make sure your story's idea kernel does not violate the conventions of the genre. Romance readers will not accept a rapist as a hero. They dislike heroes and heroines who act in less than admirable ways unless there is a hidden heroic reason for it. Likewise, we mistrust protagonists who are too poisonously good. Give your hero and heroine a few flaws. They need a chance for growth.
Don't forget to ask yourself the eternal writer's question: "What if . . . " When you're in the planning stages, you can run as wild as you like. Don't be afraid to ask yourself outrageous questions. Think about your characters before you go to sleep and let your subconscious bubble the story all night. You might be surprised what your dreams tell you.
When you're brainstorming your plots, take a fresh sheet of paper and write at least 20 possible twists your story can take. Chances are the real gem will be toward the end of the list. It will be something out of the box, something no one else has thought of, something untried and fresh.
Then all you need do is toss that idea in the tumbler of your imagination and let the precious stone emerge.
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Ok, back to the topic at hand. How do you decide which story to throw your heart and time into? Happy Writing!