How do you keep from telling the same story over and over? What are your tips and tricks for finding fresh ideas and adding new twists to your work?
I think what's interesting about this question is that there are certain types of stories that we are always going to be drawn towards, whether that means something we are writing ourselves, or a story that we are reading in a book, watching on television, or in a movie.
For example, the stories that I find myself drawn towards time and time again, are ones featuring strong smart female protagonists, that have a mix of both action and romance. Humor is always nice too. I also love coming of age stories.
On the other hand I have a strong bias against stories set against the background of the mob. The Sopranos never did it for me. And in film school I had a friend who literally could not comprehend my words, when in response to him asking me if I wanted to watch The Godfather trilogy with him and some friends, I told him that I, "Had no interest in seeing those movies." He acted like I had announced that I liked to comb my hair with peanut butter - my words just made no sense to him. We've also had words about The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which he has watched more times than he can count, and I... fell asleep in the movie theater during the first movie, and after that decided not to pay ten dollars a ticket for nap time.
To this day he insists I need to watch The Godfather, and to this day I just don't see any reason to fit it into my already busy schedule - especially when their are so many movies out there that I actually do want to watch.
I guess what I am saying here is that a little repetition in the stories we choose to tell might be inevitable. This isn't to say that we should write formulaic stories to the point where if someone read one of our books, they would instantly know how every other one of them ends. However, I do think we expect a little consistency from authors, and that then goes back to the whole idea of branding yourself as an author, etc. etc. etc.
Okay, so accepting the idea that to a certain extent we'll tell or be drawn to the same types of stories, how do we keep ourselves from becoming predictable, repetitive, and - dare I even say it - redundant? How do we keep things fresh?
My answer is to simply open yourself to new experiences and ideas. Some of this is going to happen naturally. I know that since having my baby, my ideas about motherhood have changed.
At other times though, it might come from just pushing ourselves outside of our natural comfort zone, like maybe one of these days I will break down, watch The Godfather, and perhaps even come away from it with new storytelling ideas.
My other answer comes from a quote that was in a weekly screenwriting email I receive.
"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it."This quote says better, and in fewer words, what I've spent this whole post trying to express, so I think I'll end things here.
– C.S. Lewis
What about you? Are there certain types of stories that you are drawn towards? And how do you keep you stories fresh?
And don't forget - to keep following the responses from the other blog chainers, head on over to Mary's blog.