We’re continuing our discussion of how to avoid writing trite openings or overused plotlines. We’ve reviewed a list of the most common storylines in PART 1 and how to devise a grabby intro in PART 2. In part three, let’s take a look at what makes a story original…and how the heck to create one.
MAKING STORIES ORIGINAL
You’ve probably read somewhere there are only thirty some-odd character archetypes and even fewer journeys for the human psyche. So how do you make them fresh over and over again? The answer is in the subplots.
EX. Boy meets girl. Girl falls in love. They’re from different sides of the tracks, making their love forbidden. Angst and rebellion ensue–a tale as old as time. But what is underneath this storyline that is driving the protag & antag to their ultimate goals? Boy is an Afghani warlord with a penchant for executing people. His secret goal is to avenge the death of his family. Girl is an American soldier sent to Afghanistan for duty. She despises men because her father beat her. All she wants to do is annihilate every male she sees, especially the bastard warlords responsible for killing her mother in 911.
A very different subplot will unfold in such a setting.
Another major factor in creating an original plotline is the outcome of the protagonist’s journey. Girl falls in love with warlord, but kills him anyway for revenge, OR Girl & Boy flee Afghanistan and stay with Tibetan monks to work through their demons. The outcome should distinguish your protag from all of the other Boy meets Girl stories.
EVERY ACTION CREATES A REACTION
How a protag and antag (or any other character for that matter) react to one another pumps creative elements into a stale story.
EX. Judy discovered her husband is cheating. She could A.) boil his bunny B.) withdraw every dime from his bank account and leave without a trace C.) silently seethe and then bed all of his coworkers and friends…the list goes on and on.
An exercise to get started– make a list of your protag’s actions. Now list three different ways they could react within the same setting. How will the antag’s action change as the protag’s do? Create surprises!
AVOID THE COMMON & FINDING INSPIRATION
READ, READ, & READ SOME MORE
Read. A LOT. Ravenously. Offer to beta read. The more varied the genres you read, the better. Keep a running list of subplots. It enriches your knowledge base, ultimately improving your craft.
WATCH THE MARKET
This happens naturally if you’re reading constantly. Study the trends and then DO NOT follow one. By the time your novel gets picked up, the trend will be passé and you’ll be nothing but a harpy trying to ride someone else’s coattails.
GET A HOBBY
Try something new. Join an ethnic dinner club. Take scuba lessons. Enroll in an astronomy class. New experiences will help you develop varied subplots as well as enrich your characters’ traits.
EX. Jane meets Mr.Wonderful on Cocoa Island. She hadn’t planned on taking scuba lessons with such a hunk. What luck! Until her swim top tangled in her tube as they practiced shared breathing. With only seconds between breaths, Mr. Wonderful attempts to help her, only to run out of oxygen. Your girl meets boy just got a lot more interesting because of your new acquired skill.
PUT ON YOUR 3-D GOGGLES
Put on your writer goggles, grab a plume and notebook and go to a place you would never dare set foot in– a dance club, a group home for runaways, a geisha house, a sewer tour, a Sear’s appliance store. You’re bound to run across very different kinds of people and have vastly different experiences in each location. Look, listen, take notes. You’d be surprised how many radical plot points spring into that twisted writer head of yours.