Jon posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
My question concerns how to pick a story topic or story line. I never feel like any of my one sentence summaries are worth expanding to a story. I think this frustration is the biggest thing holding me back from trying to write. I don’t have any confidence in my story ideas. I feel like they are either too boring or too similar to novels/movies/TV show that have already been done. Any advice?
Randy sez: Yikes, that’s a tough one. I think it’s a mistake to write a novel about a story you don’t care about. But it’s also a mistake to have your standards set so high that you never work on anything because it’s not original enough.
Without knowing you, Jon, I’d be hard pressed to pinpoint the problem. One thing to bear in mind is that there are very, very few truly original story ideas. Most stories are similar in some way to stories that have already been told. So why tell them? That’s simple: because those stories have never been told by YOU. If you’re a real writer with something to say, then telling ANY story will automatically make it original.
A group of my novelist friends did an experiment a few years ago. They all agreed to write a short story based on the same idea. The story had to have a number of elements all the same. Everybody wrote a story from that same starting point. Every story was different. The result was a book titled WHAT THE WIND PICKED UP. The subtitle is “Proof that a single idea can launch a thousand stories.”
Jon, I’d suggest you just pick the idea you like best and see if maybe it’ll grow into something unique and original and interesting as you work on it. The mark of a good writer is that he or she can turn an ordinary thing into an extraordinary story.
What do you all think, O loyal blog readers? What’s your advice for Jon? Post a comment telling him what you’d do.
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.