For a while I wondered what to blog about today. With the holidays I've had little to no time to concentrate on writing, let alone a blog post on writing when I received a series of books from a self pubbed friend of mine. She asked me to read some of her books to help with a manuscript she's stuck on.
Easy, right? Minus getting caught up in a full Harry Potter marathon, I make time to read and am always on the lookout for a new series.
I started the first book. It was good. Heroine is a loner, but has a big personality. She knows who she is and doesn't take crap from anyone. Nice. I love me a strong heroine. She meets the popular jock who probably wouldn't give her the time of day ever, but she's interesting and he can't help himself. Okay. Not my favorite plot ever, but it's been done before and works. Then he falls madly in love to the point he'd die for her. Umm, okay. I get books are short. It can be hard to tell time frames, but yeesh. Instant teenage love.
I finished the first book. Was it my favorite? No. Would I read it again? No. But it was a good read and I enjoyed it. She's sold quite a few copies, so it's working. I start the second book. Loner girl, book nerd, big personality. Sound familiar? The book, while having a slightly different premise from the first, is basically the same plot. Loner girl gets jock to fall madly in love, blah, blah, blah. Okay. Now I'm bored. I start the third. Supernatural loner girl with big personality gets popular jock to fall in love. Really?
All of these books had slightly different plot lines and characters, but all of them followed the same story arc. I wondered, how many times is it okay to use the same story arc? Nicholas Sparks does and manages to sell a butt load of books every year, but does that make it okay? When is it time to say enough is enough and try something new, branch out?
Then I saw Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. And I have to admit I was slightly disappointed by what I found. **Slight Spoilers Ahead**
There are a lot of similarities between the Force Awakens and Episode IV A New Hope. Like, look at the titles. Both hint at a new beginning. A fresh start. The main characters are both from desert planets, tinker with mechanical objects and can fly whatever craft they get their hands on. There are droids with the only piece of information that can achieve the rebellions goal. There is a Leia character for both movies that is already the voice of the rebellion. Both movies have a Han Solo type character who struggles with his role and tries to run away. Even the evil brought back is similar enough to the original. There's even a cantina like place, and their objectives as a whole in the movie are very similar.
Does it work? Yes. The movie broke records it's opening weekend. And while I believe nostalgia played a huge roll, for me personally, I wanted to see loose ends tied up. The problem? I didn't really feel like they were. It was simply the same story retold 30 years in the future.
Reusing Plot devices happens a lot in fiction. There truly are only so many plot lines to write about. How you write about them makes all the difference. If your mc is pregnant in the first book, your second should face different problems. Step out of the comfort zone and flex your writing muscles. It's easy to go with what we know works and to fall into the trap of "it's selling, so I should keep going with this formula". It may sell, but eventually people will catch on and it could backfire.
Raise the bar with each story you write. Step outside your comfort zone and find that interesting character that you fear putting into words. Don't let a paycheck drive you to formulas. (Or if you do, at least take enough pride in your work to change the plotline up a little.) Who knows, you may find the one plot that's never been told.