You don’t write great stories by being exactly like everyone else. How many YA books have you read where you felt like it was just the same love-triangle regurgitated in yet another uninspired story? How many Tolkien fantasy knock-offs have you read that didn’t add anything original? I’ll bet they didn’t stick in your minds as a great story or become one of your new favorite books.
We all want to find that special something which will make our work stand-out from other writers. While there isn’t a magic formula for this and several factors have to come together successfully, I think perhaps it starts with the “What if …?” Either you have a unique “What if …?” that no one has used before, or you have an interesting answer to an over-used “What if …?”
- What if a detective solved crimes from his armchair? (Edgar Allan Poe in The Mystery of Marie Roget .)
- What if a dead Scottish hero was seeping power up into a vat of beer over his grave? and then we threw in some King Arthur lore? (I simply cannot recommend Tim Powers’ The Drawing of the Dark highly enough)
- What if aliens attacked earth and we knew they were coming back? (Orson Scott Card has a masterful and unique take on this common “What if …?” in Ender’s Game)
In your next story, try doing something unexpected. We’re literally only limited by our imaginations. Well, that and our ability to write the unexpected and strange so our readers will set aside their disbelief instead of our books 😉
- Make the superhero and the villain siblings who still share Thanksgiving dinner with their parents (credit to PROMPTUARIUM).
- Tell the story of a teenage girl who discovers her father actually has a very good reason for asking her to stay away from the new kid at school, and she agrees with him.
- Write about the dragon who rescues princesses from unsuitable knights (like in this adorable comic by Pedro Arizpe).
- Fill your technology-reliant world with every-day magic (as suggested here).