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Guest Blogger Bethany Hensel on Original Ideas and Giveaway of UNSTOPPABLE

Happy Friday, everyone! We have a guest on Lit Rambles today, author, entertainment writer, and all around sweetheart, Bethany Hensel. Not only is she offering some inspiration on original ideas, but she's giving away two e-copies of her book, UNSTOPPABLE, just released this week. Please enjoy Bethany's post, then follow the instructions below for your chance to win.

Before I begin, I just want to thank Casey and Natalie for inviting me to guest blog on their incredible site! It’s an invaluable tool to so many authors (myself included) and I am just beyond flattered to be writing for this stellar audience. I’ve been a fan of the site for years now and read it religiously.

I must confess though: When I got the go ahead from Casey to begin working on a guest post, I looked over past guest posts to see what had been covered and what hadn't. Almost right away, I realized that the many guest authors, illustrators and editors had already gone over a ton of wonderful and timely topics. I panicked and wondered if I had anything new and worthwhile to add. As I racked my brain searching for just the right thing to talk about—feeling like the biggest failure ever—it suddenly occurred to me.:

Original Ideas. Are there any left? And how do you write one?

To answer those questions, I flashbacked to a time not that long ago, when I taught a writing class at the Community College of Allegheny County. The topic of original ideas was something I had broached before. You see, the entire focus of the first session of class was debunking myths about writing so it could free you to work. One of those myths was that all the storylines had already been done, and therefore, there was nothing new for a beginning writer to add. To prove this myth wrong, I gave the class a simple exercise.

Close your eyes. Imagine a young guy running down a long, dark corridor. He’s sweating, he’s panting, his arms are pumping and his feet are slapping against the pavement. People are behind him, running nearly as fast. Suddenly, the young guy runs into a wall.  Now open your eyes.

Next, I told the class to write three scenes that would explain what was happening to this boy. I gave them five minutes. Then, I had each student read aloud what they wrote. Know what I discovered? Not one student—in that class, in that semester, in all the classes I taught—came up with the same situation. Not. A. Single. One.

I remember one girl wrote the scene so it was nothing but a huge game of tag. Another wrote that the guy had super powers and ran right through the wall. Another wrote that the guy hit the wall and was killed by zombies. Some students wrote the scene with complete paragraphs that included actual dialogue. Some just wrote a few key phrases. And some wrote maybe a word or two. See? Not only did everyone come up with different scenarios, they even came up with different ways of doing the exercise!

Everyone has such a different psychology to them. It’s like I handed out a coloring page and they each shaded and filled in the lines with their own colors and experience. Some used colored pencils, some used charcoal, some used paint made from wild flowers. I gave them the exact same picture, but it was each of their unique experiences, likes, dislikes, knowledge and influences filtered through their imaginations that colored it in.

There's only so many storylines, that's true. Let's take a look at a classic: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. It's probably one of the most familiar archetypes around. But does Harlan Coben's Shelter read anything like Lisa Kleypas's Mine Until Midnight? Does Cora Carmack's Losing It read anything like Jackson Pearce's As You Wish? The answer: no they do not. But they all have that archetype in it. But the authors are so different and their stories reflect that.

So many times I run into people who want to write but they’re afraid to. They think that they have nothing to contribute, nothing entertaining or worthwhile enough for others to invest their time and money into. How could you possibly know if you never try? There always comes a time when I write something and think it’s the most ridiculous thing ever. In fact, most authors I’ve interviewed have said a similar sentiment. That feeling of fraudulence is normal. In fact, embrace it. It’ll make you work harder to make sure each character is authentic and each motivation true.

Stories come in all shapes and sizes and writers work in all styles and routines. Just like no two people are alike, no two stories are either. Of course, you have to push yourself and stretch your imagination and take the story to its limit, but when in doubt, always go back to yourself. Always remember how wonderfully different you are from the person beside you. And never doubt that you do have something new and wonderful to offer. 

Since her breakthrough into publishing in 2007, arts and entertainment writer Bethany Hensel has compiled a vast and varied catalogue of work that includes interviews with television personalities, bestselling authors, award-winning singers, and more; as well as reviews of popular books, Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, and beloved musicals. Her debut book, Unstoppable, which readers have called “sexy”, and “sizzling” released December 3, 2013. It is available through most e-tailers. To learn more, visit bethanyhensel.com


As mentioned, Bethany is generously giving away two e-books of UNSTOPPABLE.  Here's the description from Goodreads:

Derek Archer’s life is finally beginning. He’s just about to graduate from high school, land the job he’s always wanted, and move in with the girl he’s always loved, Victoria. There’s no reason for him to question or want for anything. …until the day Victoria’s father is shot and killed, setting off a devastating, heartbreaking chain of reactions.

Now, the race is on, and Derek has only three days to right a terrible wrong. With the help of a childhood friend with a penchant for high-tech espionage, they investigate every lead, never imagining their search would take them deep into the heart of a seemingly perfect family, where old ghosts, bitter lies, and agonizing betrayal all collide. It’s then Derek discovers just how unimaginable the truth can be…and how unstoppable.

Eeek! Sounds pretty intense, right?

If you'd like a chance to win UNSTOPPABLE, please be a follower and leave a comment on this post before December 21st. Winners will be announced Monday Dec 23rd.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, leave a link in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter.

Good luck!


Anonymous said...

Great exercise. Yes, there are plenty of original ideas out there.

Thank you for the giveaway. It sounds like a great read. sharif(at)sharifwrites(dot)com

Rachna Chhabria said...

Its nice to meet Bethany. Unstoppable sounds like a racy thriller (my kind of a book).

S.P. Bowers said...

It's our own uniqueness that gives ideas originality.

Nice to meet you, Bethany, congrats on the book!

Crystal Collier said...

What an amazing reminder--we're all unique, and therefore our writing voice, perspective and approach cannot be replicated. Love it! I think this is a reminder most writers need on a daily basis.

Carrie Butler said...

What a fun exercise to give a class! My imagination took off as soon as I read it. Very interesting. :)

mshatch said...

I love writing exercises like that; it's great practice :) And what an intriguing premise - count me interested!

Unknown said...

That was an amazing way to teach students about how each person has his/her own original idea :) I find it, as a student, really interesting ;)

cleemckenzie said...

No new ideas, but limitless ways to express them! Absolutely. Loved reading about your class exercise.

Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for this inspiring post! Sometimes I think I have nothing new to say, but this reminded me that everyone's voice and story is different.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Each of us comes to the page with a lifetime of experiences unique to us.

TerryLynnJohnson said...

Wow - what a cover.
Love this thought-provoking interview.

What Diane said!

Emily R. King said...

The blurb for Unstoppable is great! Wonderful interview. Sounds like a book I'd enjoy!

Jessie Humphries said...

Unstoppable sounds wonderful, as do you, Miss Bethany! Thanks for the fun interview :)

Denise Covey said...

Unstoppable....let's hope it is unstoppable. Good luck with the launch! Great interview!

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

Wow. Book sounds great. Love to win a copy.
And I needed this post. It's funny, in a wway. I have given a gingerbread house decorating party for 33 years. And in all that time, I have never seen two people decorate an identical house. Even though they all use the same kit. Why haven't I though to apply that idea to my writing? Thank you for reminding me that we are all beautifully different. Susan

Laura Pauling said...

I love finding a story that is truly original or feels it but I also enjoy certain tropes if they have their own twist and are well written!

Anonymous said...

This post was so encouraging--so well put! Thanks! kiersti.hogue@yahoo.com

Plak Lastin said...

I don't know anything about music. In my opinion you don't have to. All you need to know is that there is nothing like music to relieve the soul and uplift it.
Aloke Ghosh