Posted by: Kathleen Mix | October 28, 2014

A Unique Idea

I often have an idea for a story that, after I’ve thought it through, never becomes a book. The ideas I discard usually seem brilliant when they first pop into my head, but loose their luster under scrutiny. Their most common fault is a lack of uniqueness.
Most fiction genres have a set of common story tropes that are repeated over and over. Romance has hundreds of stories of rich girl meets poor boy, enemies become lovers, and May / December relationships. Mystery and police procedurals have the burnt-out cop or disillusioned detective who must pull himself together and deal with a threat against his family or save his reputation when he is framed for a crime. Horror has an angry or evil monster coming to destroy the world. Science fiction has a scientist battling a rogue machine or an astronaut facing a dangerous alien.
Just another prince / pauper romance, cop catches killer, or monster eats swimmers story will not impress readers. For a novel to break out of the pack, the author must find a new slant on a familiar topic and write a story that is unique.
And that is where many novels fail. The author offers us a story we’ve read dozens of times before. The characters are stereotypes. The situation is cliché. The setting is ho-hum and bland. The spark of interest ignited by the pretty cover fizzles by page three.
When I vet a story idea, I ask myself several questions. What can I do with this that will enflame a reader’s interest? Can I make it different and unique? Can I develop a fascinating character and put her in a precarious situation or present her with a provocative conflict? Can I twist a familiar plot in a new direction or build an unexplored world that readers will want to visit?
If I find an idea I consider compelling and worthy of passion, I continue to the phase of outlining and research. If not, the idea becomes a scribbled note in my maybe-someday file. Years from now I may stumble on the perfect element to set a story based on the idea apart from the thousands of other novels fighting for readers’ attention. But until then, the common idea must wait to be deemed unique.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: