Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Uniquely You Ditto Writing

Do you ever feel like your story is just the same old story that's been written before? Do you struggle with finding an original plot that's never been done before? Well, I do, and let me say that after re-reading the last chapter in The Fire In Fiction by Donald Maass, I was encouraged.

According to Donald Maass, there really is nothing new under the sun when it comes to basic plots and storylines. Are you writing a mystery? Well, join the crowd who starts off with a murder and ends up with a solved case. Are you writing a love story? Join all the others who write about boy meets girl-boy cannot have girl-but love conquers all and he gets the girl. There is nothing original in basic plot lines. Been there, done that.

So what makes a story unique? YOU!!!!!

Only you have the experiences that you have had. Only you can bring a unique perspective to a basic storyline. The trick is being brave enough to open yourself up to what is real and honest in your life and using that in your writing. We all have experiences that have shaped our world view and how we deal with life. If we can be honest enough bring it into our writing, our stories will come alive.

Donald Maass says, "Finding the power buried in your novel...is about finding you: your eyes, experience, understanding, and compassion. Ignore yourself and your story will be weak. Embrace the importance of what you have to share with the rest of us and you have the beginning of what makes novels great."

Maass goes on to lead you into finding that unique perspective. Take common experiences and bring out the compassion and understanding to those shared experiences. For example, many people hate their day jobs and you can bring your perspective to that experience to lead the reader to relate and "get" your take on it.

Of course, then we have uncommon experiences. Where were you during 9/11? It is the same event, but everyone experienced that day in a different place and a different way. Some had family die that day. Some slept through it. Some came out of the building alive. Some watched it unfold from their office. Each person brings a different way of looking at the same thing. Use that in your writing!

I believe it is Francine Rivers who says she takes her life experiences...what she is dealing with...what the Lord is teaching her at the time...to write her stories. And oh, what powerful books she writes! They speak to the heart the reader because she brings her heart into them.

What do you want readers to come away with when they read your book? What truth do you want people to know? What theme needs to be shouted to the world? Be honest. Be real. Let your experiences, your take on life, and your heart come through your writing.

I will leave you with a quote from Donald Maass's The Fire In Fiction:
"Having something to say, or something you wish us to experience, is what gives your novel its power. Identify it. Make it loud. Do not be afraid of what's burning in your heart. When it comes through on the page, you will be a true storyteller."

QUESTION: Is it easy for you to open up and be honest in your writing with your unique experiences?


Heather Sunseri said...

I don't know about "easy," but I try to bring my experiences to my writing, then add a bit of drama to them.

Very well written, Sherrinda!!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Great post! I feel with romance stories it really is the same story told different ways. LOL
But I try to put a different spin on them with my characters. (Try, anyway) :)

Pepper said...

GREAT post, Sherrinda.

Yep, I take my experiences and put them into my stories. It may not always be easy to be vulnerable, but it sure does bring the stories to life (IMO)

Really? How many plots can there possibly be in a romance story, right? Boy meets girl. Boy and girl repel & attract at the same time. Things keep boy and girl apart. Things are resolved. Boy and girl get together.
In the end, it's like you said, Sherrinda (and Maas) - what WE do with that plot to make it uniquely us.
Evil laughs and all ;-)

Linda Kage said...

You said that perfectly! Thank you.

Of course, there was this one time I wrote about a young boss who felt really alienated because all his employees were so much older than him and they didn't really respect him. At the time, I was working at job where I was the youngest employee and my co-workerss never failed to let me know I was the young one. I really clicked with that hero because I understood his situation so clearly. But then a bunch of critique partners came back and said he was whiny and imcompetant. Ouch. Made it a little harder to open myself up on the next story and write about anything too perosnal for me.

Unknown said...

Donald Maass is great! I usually don't notice how much of my life is in my books until I go back and read them later.

Jessica Nelson said...

I put a lot of myself and others into my stories. I'm hoping when I'm pubbed no one will notice. LOL Or speculate...

Casey said...

That is so true. What I love to think about is that YOU are the only one who can write YOUR story. No one can steal your idea, because if they did, they can't steal the words branded on your heart. Simple as that. In fact, Susan May Warren in my class (and Chip MacGregor) says STUDY other authors writing. Learn and IMULATE. Wow, if that just doesn't want to make you go read and write, I don't what will!

Do I struggle with tapping into myself? Yes, very much so. 'Nuff said. :)

Great post, Sherrinda. :)

Lynnette Bonner said...

Someone once said, "Writing is easy. You just sit down at the computer and slit open a vein."

I honestly think writing from the heart - not withholding anything - is one of the hardest things we writers have to do. It takes practice. And we are too used to keeping our walls up.

Ever had a really bad day in progress when an acquaintance asked you how you were doing? Status answer? "Fine! How about you?" (With a big smile.)

We have to get past the "Fine. How about you?" attitude and get down to the pulse.

For me at least, that is a constant effort.

Great thoughts, Sherrinda!

Krista Phillips said...

Wonderful post Sherrinda!

It reminds me of a discussion my hubby and B-I-L had about music. both being musicians, they were discussing the fact that there really is no "new" music. Most new songs you hear, you could probably hear another song that has a similar beat in places.

It's how the songs are composed together, the unique flavor of composition, that makes it unique. Elements may be familiar, but the song is different.

You are totally right... well, you and maas, ha! We each bring our own life experiences, our own voices, to make our books our own. Personally, I find it a huge challenge (a good one) to take a cliche plot line and revive it, put my own twist to it to make it it's own.

Tessa Emily Hall said...

Great post! If your story is based off of your experience, the emotions are much more real to the reader. Fiction is based off of real-life experiences, so why not use our own?

Keli Gwyn said...

Love your post, Sherrinda. I try to put a lot of myself and my experiences into my stories, infusing them with as much emotion as I can. I don't use the actual situations but the universal aspects in them. For example, I lost a baby at ten weeks and my beloved mother-in-law to cancer, so when I write characters who are dealing with loss, I tap into my pain so those scenes are real and will resonate with readers.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Fantastic post.
You made us feel personally involved:)
It reminded me of the Bible passage that says we are all different parts of one body. Each has a different job, each a differnt point of view, all one body of Christ.
Thanks Sherrinda

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Heather, I'm sure you have lots of great experiences to add. We all do, if you think about it! Good luck bringing more of YOU to your writing!

Jennifer, I'm with you...a romance has the basic elements, just with different details. But isn't it fun to read a HEA?

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Pepper!!!! You did an evil laugh?!?! I love it! I'm such a bad influence on you! With your busy and eclectic life, your stories will breathe beautifully!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Linda!!! Oh no! It sure would make me gun shy to share my heart if it came across as whiny! Well, maybe there are other experiences you've had that would make your stories "pop". :)

Julie, you lose yourself while you write, don't you? That's a good thing! I think it's when the words just flow and we don't have to "think" about our experiences to bring them into our stories that makes them come alive.

Jessica! lol...you know your friends and family will definitely speculate! lol...that might not be so good, huh?

Thanks Casey! I love that S. Warren said we need to emulate other authors. That is really good advice!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Lynnette, I love that quote and you are right that it is difficult to be real. I don't like to feel vulnerable and it is a struggle to open myself up to that. But I know it would deepen my writing and give it more substance.

Krista! I know exactly what you mean! My co-worker likes to sing in the office and she will start a song and I will jump in...and sing the wrong song!!! It had the same tune, but I was not singing the song that she started! lol

Christ is Write, isn't it great we all have unique experiences to help us with our writing?!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh Keli, I'm sorry you've had to deal with life experiences so painful. I'm sure the emotions you draw upon really deepen your stories and draw the reader in. It's that kind of writing that touches people's hearts! God bless you, Keli!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Hi Mary! You are so right! I hadn't thought about the body of Christ, but it is so true! We all are different, yet the same. We all are a part, but have unique perspectives. Great observation!

Hayley Lovell said...

I do try to weave personal experience in there somewhere, this was a great post Sherrinda!

Jeanette Levellie said...

Excellent post! I really must read the Fire in Fiction, even though I write nf. I think it will heat up my stories, don't you?

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Hi Haley! I love that even at a young age like you, you have something to share!

Jeanette!!! I'm sure you bring fire to anything you put your hands to, girl! You are one sassy Pastor's Wife!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Sherrinda -

I'll have to add that book to my Wish List. I think I open up and "bleed on the page." LOL - maybe too much.

Susan :)