Monday, August 15, 2011

Keeping it Fresh

Writing is hard. You get a great story down on paper. Polish it up. And then it's time to write another. And maybe another. Etc. Etc.

But how do you keep the stories new? How do you avoid writing the same story over and over again? Or writing stories similar to every other story out there?

I think this is one of the hardest things about writing - coming up with new ideas that aren't simply reinventions of your last story.

I think all of us tend to stick to certain themes that reappear in several of our stories. And I think we're heavily influenced not only by the books we read and critique, the movies we watch and the lyrics we listen too.  All of it has the potential of influencing our story ideas, shaping our word choices and impacting our writing.

So how, then, do we not only make sure our ideas are fresh, but also not bordering on plagiarism?

For me it comes down to authenticity  - authenticity of voice and authenticity of story. 

Stories are fresh and unique when we speak from our own characters' voices, and not merely our voice as an author - when we explore the premise of our story from the perspective of the unique characteristics that define our characters.

Not always easy to do, true.  But always worth the effort.

Another aspect of originality can be found in looking at the following Mark Twain quote:
There are some books that refuse to be written. They stand their ground year after year and will not be persuaded. It isn't because the book is not there and worth being written -- it is only because the right form of the story does not present itself. There is only one right form for a story and if you fail to find that form the story will not tell itself.
To me, this speaks of being authentic as well...authentic to the actual story.  Just as I think we must speak from our characters and not ourselves, we must be true to the story - and let it tell us how it is to be written.  We get ourselves into trouble as writers when we allow the inner editor to get into the mix too soon.  True, there is a time and place for editing (gosh knows my own writing needs serious editing on a regular basis), but not initially - - - not while the story is being born.

Michelangelo believed that his job as a sculture was to reveal the art that lived in the stone.  As writers, I believe we reveal the story the lies just beyond the page.  We just need to be open to it!

How do you guys keep things fresh?


  1. Very good point. :) Authenticity is vital to writing a book--not only to keep old things fresh and new, but as a way of honoring both the story and the reader.

    My characters pretty much just show up fully formed and then it's up to me to torture them. O:)

  2. Deodorant? Heh! Sorry, I couldn't resist. I think a story is unique because the characters telling it are unique. They have different ideas, experiences, routines. I think if the characters are individual, the story will naturally feel fresh. Great post!

  3. This is definitely something I worry about, telling the same story again. But you're right. If we're true to the story and the individual characters, it'll be fresh. :)


Thanks for your input!