As a reader, I want new stories to enjoy, but I’m also looking for the types of stories that I enjoy.
This means I hit the fantasy and science fiction aisles of the bookstores, not the horror or literary fiction aisles. For the, ah, three decades that I’ve been reading these kinds of stories, a lot of the same themes, archetypes, plots, and settings have occurred. You name it, I’ve seen it – probably at least twice.
But I keep seeking out these kinds of stories.
Because each author has their own spin on farmboy-goes-to-big-city.
I like the predictability of what should happen, what I expect to happen, and the light vibration of something new that I feel from the first chapter that grows as I read a new book, letting the author lead me down a path that feels familiar but I know I’ve never traveled before.
As a writer, I tell the kinds of stories I like to read. It is my job to entertain the reader, to give them something the same but different, to fulfill their desire for new stories that are the same as the stories that they enjoy.
Some days it is easier than others.
A. C. Crispin had a recent ACCess blog post about “How to Satisfy Your Reader without Being Predictable” which I found to be a great read on this topic.
Then Brandon Sanderson talked about how one archetype his early novel Mythwalker worked (and eventually became his later novel Warbreaker) while another tried-and-true fantasy plot didn’t pan out in his “MYTHWALKER Prologue + Updates” blog post.
I think Brandon best surmised this balancing act of the same but different, being predictable and original, when he said …
Not every aspect of the story needs to be completely new. Blend the familiar and the strange-the new and the archetypal. Sometimes it’s best to rely on the work that has come before. Sometimes you need to cast it aside.
I guess one of the big tricks to becoming a published author is learning when to do which.
Great post, Heidi. This is a question I was wrestling with on the short story I’m currently working on, and it was very nice to read someone else’s thoughts on it, and see the quote from Brandon.
Brandon Sanderson’s website has so many tools for aspiring writers. It’s fantastic. The combining of traditional with new twists is one of the funnest and most challenging parts, I think, of creating our stories.