Why shattering preconceived story ideas is a good thing


A while ago I posted about merging the two worlds I’d created. The worlds were different from each other, but there was one thing that held them together. That one things is what binds the stories. I’ve learned the hard way with my writing that I should leave things alone and not touch what shouldn’t be.

That is not to say I’m not merging them, I am. I’ve just found a better way than the one I described in the first post. Both stories are Sci-Fi/Fantasy, but they have things in them that can cross the boundaries of what is fantasy and what is science fiction. These boundaries I’ve learned are made to be shattered, not broken..Shattered.

Breaking boundaries is what is good about fiction. It’s what makes me get up, turn on the computer and stare at the little bugs on the screen. Seeing new worlds on the page and the characters reactions to those worlds–no matter how intense or wondrous–is why we write.

Genre?

The genre you write in doesn’t matter, what matters is the feeling you get from the story you’re writing. If you care about your characters and the actions they have to take in the story, that’s good. However, it will make it that much harder if you have to do something terrible to them later.

Boundaries in writing are just a set of principles that writers in a genre use. Things like, magic in fantasy, guns and space in science fiction and scary things in horror. But who would want to read a horror novel that didn’t have scary things in it. Scary things can be monsters, ghosts, or things that the protagonist is just not sure about.

Finding things to change these is a bit harder. Take magic in fantasy. There are limits to what you can do with magic. Magic must have rules. Like in Game of Thrones. Magic in George R.R. Martin’s world has rules. There is always a price to be paid for using magic. Those that have watched the TV show know what I’m talking about, if you don’t think of it like this… If you want to save someone’s life, you must use something that is of equal value to you.

Changing the Rules

The shattering of some rules in genres is something that I’ve thought about since I began writing. Why must there be certain things in good horror novels? Why must there be that crazy person in some Stephen King books, the same one that Scooby and Shaggy used to bust, or at least it feels like that to me.

I read every genre so I know what the rules are. I also read every genre so I know why they’re there.

Certain things have to be there for a good story. The reader has to be interested in the Protagonist, there has to be a good bad guy, something that makes the protagonist nervous and there is always someone the protagonist can trust, or thinks they can trust.

Learning what works

We all see things that are different in our writing compared to what we used to write. Lately I’ve been looking at past drafts of my work and marveling at the difference. Some things come with time. Learning what works and knowing what works was a big step for me.

I found that using an outline is a necessity. There are times I will go off the outline if the story takes me somewhere else. But I follow the outline when I can. It is these trips off the outline that have given me the best writing. I’ve learned to just let it flow when this happens. Stopping the creativity from moving the story is a bad idea and may stall your writing.

Ultimately your story ideas are your own. They can take you to places that are enormous or small (short stories). Finding the break in the writing and doing things outside the box of what is normal is when the writing influences new things. If new ideas in stories never happened we’d still be writing like authors from a hundred years ago. Those writers are the ones we should learn from and emulate, not copy.

Finding yourself in your writing is the most important thing you can do as a writer. You’ll know when it happens.

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7 Responses to Why shattering preconceived story ideas is a good thing

  1. Nona says:

    “Finding yourself in your writing is the most important thing you can do as a writer.” Never before was there a truer statement, and it is this which I clasp to me every day that I open my current WIP. Writers struggle daily with confidence, ego, and finding their voice (for that particular story), so it is VERY IMPORTANT to remember what you say here. 🙂 Bravo.

    • BB_Baker says:

      Thank you so much for your wonderful comment. Confidence in your writing and keeping your ego in check are the things I’ve found important, but sometimes it’s your ego that can keep you writing a particular story as well. The voice of the story can make or break the story.

      • Nona says:

        AGREED! Equal parts ego and confidence. They are SO key to continuing through the struggles we writers face every day. Ego is also key on helping us not accept every person’s suggestions on how to make the MS better. After everything is said and done, it’s our story and we have the final say (mostly).

  2. Great post title. And as always an insightful and thoughtful post. thanks

  3. Chris G. says:

    As they say, if your heart’s not in it, how can you expect your writer’s to be? A lovely post sir, addressing some real truths of the art. Always nice to see writers playing the passion card, and so obviously meaning and believing it. Cheers.

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