Thursday, September 11, 2014

Writing 101: When to Change Your Story

You've just started your new book, and you're excited. Everything is great...until you go to the movies, and you see a trailer for a plot that looks exactly the same as your new book. Being an author means you have to know when to change your story.

Simpsons Did It

I had to face a similar circumstance recently. I went back to an old project to complete it, and found that one of my characters has the same name as a character in another book series.  A much more popular book series.  And it's also a TV show. And even if I were to take a magic potion, my book isn't going to become as popular as that other book. Doesn't that mean that I have to change my story?

I've said, many times, that there are no original plots. What the ancient Greeks didn't already write about, Shakespeare did. And let's face it: I'm no Shakespeare. Since I'm no George R. R. Martin either, isn't the burden on me to change my story so readers don't think I'm trying to copy more popular (and arguably more skilled) authors?

No. Don't ever change the story you want to tell because of something another author is doing. If you spend your time worrying about similar plots and identical names, you'll make yourself crazy. There are too many books out there to be 100 percent different from every single one.

That said, clearly it's not the greatest idea to write a vampire book using two main characters named Bella and Edward. If your book too closely resembles several major aspects of a very famous tale, some tweaking may indeed be in order.

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  1. When writing my last book, Commune, I had to refocus. Minor characters became the major ones, and the original major characters became minor ones. I had been trying to tell the wrong story. Fortunately, a beta reader felt it, which inspired me to rework it.

  2. What a great story! Thanks for sharing it.