Thursday, April 8, 2010

Guest Post--Crystal Collier

Feeling Generic
*Sarcasm warning* (May contain elements of sardonic ranting.)

I honestly think bookstores are built to depress writers. They look so beautiful from the outside, so inviting. Posters advertising the latest best seller, (What we all hope to be deep down, right?) the smell of paper and anticipation of adventure lure hungry thrill-seekers forward. Aisles are clean. Countless colorful jackets beckon your touch… And then you pick one up.
Cue the plot depression. “Nope, no more vampire stories.” You tell yourself. “They’re overdone.” “Nope, no more wizards.” Again you say. “Can’t risk them being compared to Harry.” (--The way you compare everyone to Harry!) “No more crime mysteries. How many times do we have to suffer through the exact same plot?”

By the end of the visit you’ve crossed 90% of your current projects off the list. What’s left?
While your developing plots may not be completely “unique”, they are yours. Your babies. If you love them enough, if you study and refine and strengthen those characters, your prose, each fine element, detail and twist, someone will appreciate them besides you, right?
In music composition there’s a method. Formally educated individuals use the method, breaking the rules where necessary to throw their audience off and take them to new heights. Each note, its duration, emphasis in the score, selected voice, and individual performance makes it unique. So what if three measures in a sequence are exactly like someone else’s song? That may actually serve to subconsciously endear the piece to listeners.

Readers gravitate toward elements they’ve loved in other books. I know I do! As in music composition, if method is applied (yes, study, study, study!) and the rules broken in the right places and at the right times, you just may send your readers to cloud-nine. Let people compare and say your story reminds them of this or that. In the end they either love the work, or they don’t—and as no two songs are exactly alike, neither are stories.

Don’t be afraid to write what you love! (And especially what sells!)

Books, music and more:


  1. You know how they say it takes seeing something 3 times before you get it? Maybe it takes reading 3 similar books before something really reaches you. Either way, I believe that we each sing a song unique to us and that sometimes, our pitch is the only one that makes it through the din.

  2. It's very intimidating trying to come up with a story that is at least partly original. With so many books already written, it's a challenge, but one we writers are determined to succeed at!

  3. This is a great post! You really captured the heartache of visiting the bookstore and seeing everyone else who is on the shelf but not you.

    As for telling stories that have already been told, the key is to tell it YOUR way. With YOUR take on the world. In YOUR voice. That's what makes it special.

  4. Thank you for the clarification Rebecca. You sound like my long ago literary agent! (Ever think of taking up the cause?)

    And thank you Amber!

  5. ok, so something a little depressing I was thinking of yesterday is that sometimes the things we think are new and exciting because we've never seen them before are actually unpublishable. Meaning the reason we haven't seen them is because no one will publish those concepts! I know, I can be a real downer sometimes, but I have heard publishers say that somewhere. But I do know that there is an exception to every rule and here's hoping I'm the exception! LOL!



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